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Public Library 

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TENSION ENVELOPE CORP. 



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KANSAS CITY. MO. PUBLIC LIBF1ARY 




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PRINTS AND 
VISUAL COMMUNICATION 



PRINTS 

AND 

VISUAL COMMUNICATION 



by 
WILLIAM M. JtVINS, JR. 

EMERITUS CURATOR OF PRINTS 
THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART 



HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS 

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS 



First published in U.S.A. 1953 

by Harvard University Press 

Cambridge Massachusetts 

Printed in Great Britain 

by Butler & Tanner Limited 

Frame and London 



TO 
THE MEMORY 

OF 
F.W.I. 



PREFACE 



T 



thesis of this book grew out of a long endeavour to 
find a pattern of significance in the story of prints. To 
discover the pattern it was necessary to approach that 
story from a point of view which lay outside it, and to 
take account of values and effects that have customarily been 
overlooked. 

For many years the writer had desired to prepare an ordered 
argument of his thesis, but time free for the purpose did not come 
until after retirement from official duties and the fulfilment of some 
old obligations. Slightly later an invitation to deliver a course of 
eight lectures at the Lowell Institute of Boston, in January, 1950, 
not only gave him the inestimable benefit of a 'dead line', but 
caused him to shorten and simplify his argument. 

The book has been written from memory, without notes. When 
it was finished the writer verified his quotations, checked names, 
dates, and a few incidents in the common reference books, and 
made most of the photographs for the illustrations. 

The writing was almost finished when there came to hand for 
the first time Andre Malraux's La Psychologic de FArt, in which 
part of the problem here dealt with is considered from a very 
different point of view and to quite another end. 

The writer thanks the following friends for their many kind- 
nesses and their patience with him: Mr. and Mrs. George Boas, 
W. G. Constable, Alfred E. Cohn, Dudley T. Easbey, Mr. and 
Mrs. N. Gabo, Walter Hauser, A. M. Hind, A. Hyatt Mayor, 

vii 



PREFACE 

Beaumont Newhall, Miss Alice NewUn, Edward Milla, Mr. and 
Mrs. Theodore Sizer, and Thomas J. Wilson. Especially he thanks 
the Metropolitan Museum of Art and its staff, past and present, 
for innumerable courtesies. From his daughter Barbara he has 
received the keenest of criticism and the most affectionate and 
unremitting of encouragement. 

The notation '(MM)' in the captions for the illustrations indi- 
cates that they have been reproduced by permission of the Metro- 
politan Museum of Art from originals in its collections. 

Thanks to the generosity of the publishers, most of the plates 
have been produced by the collotype process on paper other than 
that used for either the line blocks or the half tones. To secure the 
great gain in accuracy of reproduction of the fine textures of the 
originals thus made possible, it has been mechanically necessary to 
sacrifice what otherwise would have been the order of the plates 
in the book. 

Woodbury 
Connecticut 



vni 



CONTENTS 



PREFACE page Vll 

I. INTRODUCTION THE BLOCKED ROAD TO PICTORIAL COM- 
MUNICATION 1 

II. THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY 21 

HI. SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX A RULE OF THE ROAD THE 

SIXTEENTH CENTURY 51 

IV. THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE THE SEVENTEENTH AND 

EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 71 

V. THE TYRANNY BROKEN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 93 

VI. PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX THE NINE- 
TEENTH CENTURY 113 

VII. NEW REPORTS AND NEW VISION THE NINETEENTH 

CENTURY 135 

Vin. RECAPITULATION 158 

INDEX 181 



IX 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



1. Painted woodcut from Boner's Der Edelstein, Bamberg, 1461 

facing page 4 

About actual size. This book is the earliest known that is both 
printed from type and illustrated with printed pictures. The wood- 
blocks were impressed by hand in blanks left for the purpose in the 
printed text much as though they had been rubber stamps, (Repro- 
duced from the facsimile of the unique copy, issued by the Graphische 
Gesellschaft of Berlin in 1908.) 

2. A metal cut of St. Martin (MM) facing page 5 

Reduced. A typical late fifteenth-century relief 'metal cut'. The marks 
of the heads of the nails which held the plate to the wooden block for 
printing in the type press can be seen at top and bottom. The various 
technical notions implicit in this kind of work did not come to fruition 
until the nineteenth century. 

3. The Duchess*, a proof from one of the wood-blocks for 
Holbein's Dance of Death (c. 1520) (MM) facing page 12 

About actual size, with a portion enlarged to show detail too small 
to be seen by the unaided human eye. It is doubtful if any finer work 
was ever done with a knife on a wood-block. 

4. Woodcut from Osatus's La vera perfettione deldesegno, Venice, 
1561 (MM) facing page 13 

Slightly enlarged. Showing what happened when a woodcut with fine 
lines was printed on hard ribbed paper. This defect was unavoidable 
with the paper then available, and possibly had something to do with 
the shift from woodcuts to copper engravings that began about this 
time. 

5. Portion of a late impression of an early North Italian engraving 
of St. Jerome in the Desert (pr. coll.) facing page 24 

Enlarged. Showing the primitive Italian goldsmith's type of stylized 
detail and helter-skelter shading, sometimes referred to as the 'fine 

xi 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

manner*. It was succeeded in Italy by the 'broad manner' of the painter 
engravers, which reached its apogee in the original work of Mantegna. 

6. Portion of Mantegna's engraved Bacchanal with Silemis (MM) 

after page 24 

Reduced. To be compared with Diirer's pen and ink copy reproduced 
on the opposite page. 

7. Portion of Diirer's pen and ink copy of Mantegna's Bacchanal 
with Silenus (in the Vienna collection) after page 24 

Reduced. Mantegna engraved much as he drew with his pen. Durer 
in copying him substituted his own anecdotal German calligraphy for 
Mantegna's simplified powerful statement of essentials. In this kind 
of distortion Durer has been followed by most of the succeeding 
engravers, who have given more attention to the weaving of linear 
textures than to reporting the basic qualities of their originals. 

8. Portion of an anonymous early Italian engraved copy of a 
drawing by Mantegna (MM) facing page 25 

Enlarged. One of the first sizeable groups of reproductive engravings 
was made during Mantegna's life after drawings by him. In many of 
them Mantegna's style of drawing was closely copied, presumably 
because it was also the natural style of the engravers. The dots in the 
outlines of the impression here reproduced were made when it was 
pricked to take off its design on another piece of paper. 

9. Portion of a primitive woodcut of St. Christopher page 25 

About actual size. Prints of this type are attributed to the early years 
of the fifteenth century. (Reproduced from Max Lehrs, Holzschnitte d. 
ersten Halfte d. XV Jahrhunderts im K. Kupferstichkabinett zu Berlin, 
issued by the Graphische Gesellschaft of Berlin in 1908.) 

10* The earliest picture of a printing press. Woodcut from a Dance 
of Death printed at Lyons in 1499 page 26 

Reduced. (Reproduced from the facsimile of the unique copy in 
Claudia's Histoire de rimprimerie en France, Paris, Imprimerie Nation- 
ale, 1900 ff.) 

1L Woodcut from Torquemsida's Meditationes, Rome, 1473 (MM) 

page 30 

Reduced. This woodcut also appeared in the edition of 1467 the first 
book printed from type in Italy which contained printed illustrations. 
They were printed with the type. It was also the first book printed 
anywhere which contained illustrations that purported to represent 
specifically located particular things in this instance some wall 
decorations in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva which no 
longer exist. 

xii 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

12. Portion of a woodcut from Valturius's De re mtiitari, Verona, 
1472 (MM) page 31 

Reduced. This was the first book Ulustrated with printed pictures of 
machinery this one representing a primitive and doubtless imaginary 
'Gatling gun' with eight barrels. The roughly inked blocks were care- 
lessly impressed by hand in blanks left for the purpose in the printed 
text. 

13. Woodcut of 'Asparagus agrestis', from the herbal of the 
Pseudo-Apuleius, Rome, n.d. (c. 1483) (MM) page 32 

About actual size. This was the first illustrated printed herbal. Its 
woodcuts were rough copies of the drawings in a ninth-century manu- 
script. 

14. Portion of a head of Christ by the early German Master E. S. 
(MM) facing page 32 

Enlarged. Showing a step in the early German development from the 
goldsmith's type of engraving towards a systematized calligraphic 
linear system. 

15. Torso from Mantegna's engraving of the Risen Christ between 
SS. Andrew and Longinus (MM) after page 32 

Enlarged. The final development of Mantegna's linear system in en- 
graving. Mantegna's prints had a great influence on design, but counted 
for little in the subsequent development of the linear structures of pro- 
fessional reproductive engraving. His manner of drawing and shading 
required powerful draughtsmanship and provided little opportunity 
for the display of the mere craftsman's skill in routine manipulation. 

16. Torso from Diirer's engraving of Adam and Eve (MM) 

after page 32 

Enlarged. Diirer's masterpiece of engraved representation of the naked 
human body. It shows the development of his calligraphic drawing 
under pressure of his love of detail and his pride in the manual adroit- 
ness with which he could lay lines of the greatest fineness with the 
sharp point of his engraving tool. In spite of Ms genius, he was prob- 
ably the greatest of the writing masters and it is to this that he owes 
much of his popular fame. 

17. Torso from Diirer's woodcut of The Trinity (MM) 

after page 32, 

Enlarged. Diirer's masterpiece of woodcut representation of the naked 
human body. Its linear system is to be compared with that of his 
engraved Adam and Eve. This is a remarkable rendering of a calli- 
graphic pen drawing on the block that had been simplified to meet the 
exigencies of the woodcutter. 

xiii 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

18. Figure from Marc Antonio's early engraving of Pyramus and 
Thisbe (MM) after page 32 

Enlarged. An example of the coarse, rough, careless, linear system 
used by Marc Antonio before he had become thoroughly familiar with 
Diirer's work. He did not love and caress his lines as Diirer did, and 
neither was he a dandy as Diirer was. 

19. Portion of Marc Antonio's late engraving of Jupiter and Cupid, 
after Raphael (MM) after page 32 

Enlarged. An example of the linear system that Marc Antonio finally 
developed out of Diirer's engravings and woodcuts for the reproduc- 
tion of ancient sculpture and of Raphael's designs. 

20. Portion of Lucas of Leyden's late engraving of Lot and his 

Daughters (MM) after page 32 

Enlarged. An example of the linear system finally evolved by Lucas, 
when he had emerged from Diirer's influence and fallen under that of 
Marc Antonio. In this he pointed the way to such later men as Goltzius. 

21. Portion of an engraving of the statue of Laocoon published by 
Lafreri at Rome in the middle of the sixteenth century (MM) 

facing page 33 

Enlarged. An example of what happened when Marc Antonio's late 
style fell into the hands of the unintelligent hack engravers of the print 
publishers. 

22. Woodcut of 'Gladiolus', from the herbal known as the Gart 
der Gesundheit, Mainz, 1485 (MM) page 35 

Reduced. This was the first printed herbal illustrated with printed 
pictures after drawings specially made for the purpose from actual 
plants. Its printer was Peter Schoeffer, the surviving partner of Guten- 
berg. 

23. Detail from a woodcut view of Venice, from Breydenbach's 
Peregrlnationes, Mainz, 1486 (MM) page 37 

Enlarged. This was the first printed book of travel that was illustrated 
with printed pictures after drawings made for the purpose by one of 
the travellers. His name was Erhard Rewich ('Erhardum silicet 
Rewich'), and he was the first illustrator of a printed book whose 
name is known to us. This view of Venice was a folding plate, about 
six feet long. 

24. Woodcut of a living-room, from Pelerin's De Perspectiva, 
Toul, 1 504 (courtesy of the Pierpont Morgan Library) page 41 

Reduced. This was the first printed book to contain the basic rules of 
modern perspective, and its illustrations are the earliest prints to be 
drawn in accordance with those rules. 

xiv 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

25. Woodcut of violets, from the Grete Herbal, London, 1525 
(MM) page 42 

About actual size. This was the earliest printed English herbal. Its 
illustrations show the degradation of forms that comes from the copy- 
ing of copies of copies instead of working directly from the original 
objects, 

26. Woodcut of violets from Branfels's Herbarum vivae eicones, 
Strassburg, 1530 (MM) page 43 

Reduced. Many herbals had been printed since that of 1485, but this 
was the next one that contained illustrations specially drawn from the 
actual plants. The artist was Hans Weiditz. 

27. Woodcut of 'Kappiskrauf, from Fuchs's De Stirpium Historia 
. . ., Basel, 1545 (MM) page 45 

Enlarged. Fuchs's herbal appeared as a large folio with large wood- 
cuts," in 1542 and 1543. In 1545 this textless pocket edition was 
issued with very faithful small copies of the big woodcuts in the earlier 
editions. 

i8. Portion of Tobias Stimmer's woodcut of Otto Heinricli, Count 

Schwarzenburg (MM) page 48 

Enlarged. Showing the influence of copper plate linear structures upon 

the work of the woodcut designers and the woodcutters of the second 

half of the sixteenth century. 

>9. Detail from Cornells Cort's engraving of the Martyrdom of St. 

Lawrence, after Titian (1571) (MM) facing page 48 

Enlarged. Showing how a stylist engraver took pleasure in weaving a 

linear web. Cort's engravings did much to introduce Titian's design 

to the North. 

JO. Portion of Goltzius's engraving of Bacchus (MM) 

after page 48 

Enlarged. Typical of the linear structure worked out by Goltzius, a 
learned student of the great early engravers and, himself, the most 
eminent of the northern virtuoso engravers of the late sixteenth and 
early seventeenth centuries. The picture has become a mere medium 
for the weaver's skill in making watered silks. At this time, and in 
prints such as this, reproductive engraving became definitely an in- 
dependent art, with criteria and values quite different from those of 
the painters and creative draughtsmen. 

II. A page from Bosse's Treatise on Engraving of 1645 (pr. coll.) 

after page 48 

Enlarged. Showing exercises for the beginner in the use of the engraver's 
and etcher's tools. Our school writing books still contain comparable 
exercises in manual discipline. 
P.V.C. XV B 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

32. Figure from Mantegna's engraving of the Bacchanal with the 
Wine Press (MM) after page 48 

Enlarged. From an early impression showing the warmth and softness 
of line caused by leaving the burr on the plate and mot removing it 
before printing. 

33. The same figure from Mantegna's engraving of the Bacchanal 
with the Wine Press (MM) after page 48 

Enlarged. From a late impression printed after the burr had vanished 
and the lines themselves had worn. Most of the impressions of Man- 
tegna's plates are of this hard cold kind and give an utterly false idea 
of his essential qualities. This pair of contrasting impressions has been 
selected for reproduction because of the largeness of their lines. 

34. The head from Van Dyck's original etching of Frans Snyders 
(MM) . after page 48 

Enlarged. Its linear structure is to be compared with that of Paul du 
Font's engraved portrait of Van Baelen after a sketch by Van Dyck, 
on the opposite page. The originals of the two heads are closely of the 
same size. This one, in its easy assured use of the inherited Rubens 
formulae, has character and sharp, if summary, notation. 

35. The head from du Font's engraved portrait of Van Baelen, 
after a sketch by Van Dyck. From the Iconography of 1645 
(pr. coll.) after page 48 

Enlarged. A typical example of the standardized linear structure 
evolved by the Rubens school of engravers. Here the qualities of the 
Van Dyck on the opposite page have been sacrificed to a mere crafts- 
man's delight in the pedantic slickness of a formalized and insensitive 
linear net. 

36. Portion of Vorstermans's engraving of *M. Brutus Imp.', after 
a drawing by Rubens 'from an ancient marble', 1638 (MM) 

facing page 49 

Reduced. Showing what Rubens in the seventeenth century thought 
the proper way to reproduce a piece of classical sculpture. 

37. Mellan's engraving of Samson and Delilah (MM) 

facing page 64 

Reduced. Showing Mellan's development of parallel shading as a device 
for the exhibition of popularly (and easily) appreciable craftsmanship. 

38. Portion of Baudefs engraving of the 'Spinello' (MM) 

after page 64 

About actual size. Mellan had engraved some statues in this manner 
which, however, reached its final development of vapidity at the 

xvi 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

hands of such later men as Baudet in the 1680's. As a stunt, it probably 
bears much the same relation to draughtsmanship that Paganinfs 
playing on one string did to music. 

39. The head of Nanteuil's engraved portrait of Pornponne de 
Bellelievre (MM) after page 64 

Enlarged. This ultimate example of empty and obvious linear virtuosity 
is generally regarded as the great masterpiece of French classical 
portrait engraving. As one looks at it one can almost hear the engraver 
saying to himself: 'Now I'll show 'em*. 

40. Portion of Watteau's painting of Le Mezetin (photo. MM) 

after page 64 

Reduced. To be compared with Audran's engraving on the facing 
page. This half tone is not regarded as a work of art as that engraving 
is, but it tells much more about the original. It is to be noted how the 
engraving turned Watteau's portrait of a hard-bitten member of the 
Comedie Italienne into that of a love-lorn youth. 

41 . Portion of Audran's mixed engraving and etching after Wat- 
teau's painting of Le Mezetin (MM) after page 64 

About actual size. From Jullienne's UCEuvre d'Antoine Watteau . . . 
Fixe a cent exemplaires des Premieres Epreuves (Paris, in the 1730*s) 
the first attempt to reproduce the oeuvre of an important painter. 
It was an inestimable boon to the forgers and copyists of Watteau. 
Blond, sparkling prints, such as this, had a great influence in succeed- 
ing French eighteenth-century practice. 

42. The face from the engraving by Gaillard after the painting 
of 'L'Homme a 1'oeuillet' (MM) after page 64 

Enlarged. The fine lines lie below the threshold of normal human 
vision. It is doubtful whether such work could or would have been 
done had it not been for the then recent discovery of photography. 
Gaillard was one of the leaders in the French mid-nineteenth-century 
revolt against the old standardized linear systems in reproductive 
engraving. 

43. A chalk sketch by Watteau as reproduced in Jullienne's Figures 
de differ ens characteres . . ., Paris, in the 1730's (MM) 

after page (A 

About actual size. This skilful but simple rendering in mixed etching 
and engraving was made by the Count Caylus, a gifted amateur, who 
made many reproductions of drawings and other works of art of 
all times and schools. He only reproduced things that amused him. 
Wealthy, witty, debauched, soldier, man of letters, archaeologist, 
critic, and cruel art patron, Caylus's influence is still visible in 
conservative contemporary taste. 
P.V.C. xvii B* 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

44. The central figures from Rembrandt's mixed etching and dry 
point of the Agony in the Garden (MM) facing page 65 

Enlarged. Showing Rembrandt's unwillingness to subordinate expres- 
sion and lively draughtsmanship to a formal linear structure which 
would have given him both larger editions and greater popularity. It 
was not tidy and had no trace of the highly polished machine finish 
that was rapidly becoming essential to commercially successful print 
making. 

45. Portion of a trial proof of Lucas's mezzotint after Constable's 
sketch of Stoke-by-Neyland (MM) facing page 80 

Enlarged. Sharp lines, abrupt transitions, and variations ^ of texture, 
i.e. brilliance and transparency, were impossible to achieve in the 
treacly medium of mezzotint. It only reached great popularity in 
England, where it became the typical technique for the reproduction 
of low keyed oil paintings by British artists of the late eighteenth and 
early nineteenth centuries. No original artist has ever adopted mezzo- 
tint as his medium of expression. 

46. Portion of Goya's pure aquatint 'For que fue sensible' (pr. 
coll.) after page 80 

Enlarged. Although aquatint, usually in combination with etching, 
was very popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries 
for the reproduction of water colour drawings, Goya was the only 
major artist ever to use it habitually for original work. 

47. The Ecchoing Green from Blake's Songs of Innocence. Repro- 
duced from an uncoloured impression of the original relief 
etching in Gilchrist's Life of William Blake, London, 1863. 

after page 80 

About actual size. Blake's Songs of Innocence were printed in 1789 
from copper plates etched in relief. The technique came to its full 
usefulness when the younger Gillot combined it with a way of photo- 
graphically transferring a drawing to a plate. 

48. Portion of a relief print by Daumier, entitled 'Empoignez les 
tous . . .', from Le Magasin Charivarique, Paris, 1834 (pr. coll.) 

after page 80 

About actual size. Probably made by a variety of the 'chalk plate' 
process. It shows how much the merit of a print depends on the man 
who makes it, rather than upon any particular quality of the process 
used. This has not been understood in the English speaking countries. 

49. A tail-piece from Bewick's Land Birds, originally published 
at Newcastle in 1797 after page 80 

Enlarged, An early white line wood-engraving. Three impressions 
from the same block : (1) a specially inked and printed proof on 

xviii 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

China paper (MM) ; (2) a carelessly inked and printed impression on 
rough paper from the textless edition of 1800 (pr. coll.) ; (3) an im- 
pression on better paper from the edition of 1832 (pr. coll.)* These 
three impressions illustrate the difficulties the printers had in printing 
Bewick's fine textured white line blocks with the papers and inking 
methods then available. 

50. Detail of Charlton Nesbit's wood-engraving of Rinaldo and 
Armida, from Savage's Hints on Decorative Printing, London, 
1822 (pr. coll.) after page 80 

Enlarged. This impression was carefully printed on China paper 
mounted on the regular paper of the book. The engraver instead of 
frankly working in white lines as Bewick and Blake did, attempted to 
make his prints look like black line engravings on copper then still 
regarded as the best way of reproducing pictures. But he went copper 
engraving one better by engraving schematic white lines across his 
schematic black lines. 

51. Detail from the defaced block of Nesbit's Rinaldo and Armida 
(pr. coll.) . after page 80 

Enlarged. This impression was printed with ordinary care on the paper 
used for the text pages of the book. Impressions from the defaced 
blocks were inserted at the end of Savage's book to show that there 
could be no subsequent edition but, after the blocks had been defaced 
and printed from in that condition, this one, at least, was promptly 
repaired and some impressions from it were printed with great care on 
China paper. In making up the copies of the book some of these later 
impressions got mixed with the earlier China paper ones and were 
used in their places in the book. Thus this very bad impression from 
the defaced block is actually earlier than that on China paper repro- 
duced on the facing page from the same copy of the book. 

52. Two black line wood-engravings ftomPuckle's Club., London, 

1817 (pr. coll.) after page 80 

About actual size. While the illustrations were printed on India paper 
mounted on the text pages, the tail-pieces were printed with the type 
on the paper of the text pages. The difference in quality of impression 
caused by the different papers is obvious. Paper adequately smooth to 
yield good impressions from such fine textured blocks was not available 
for commercial use until the end of the nineteenth century. 

53. Two wood-engravings, one by Blake and one anonymous, 
from Thornton's Eclogues of Vergil, London, 1822 (pr. coll.) 

after page 80 

About actual size. This was one of the earliest school text books to 
be illustrated with a large number of wood-engravings. Those by Blake 
are among the earliest perfectly free drawings done with the engraving 
tool on the wood. Thornton found it necessary to apologize for them 

xix 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

in a footnote, but saw no necessity to comment on the other blocks, 
which are typified by the second reproduction. The blocks were 
printed with the type on the cheap paper of the book. 

54. Portion of Harvey's wood-engraving of B. R. Haydon's paint- 
ing of the 'Death of Lucius Quintus Dentatus' (MM) 

after page 80 

Enlarged. The earlier wood-engravings were so small that the difficul- 
ties in printing came from the paper and the methods of inking. This 
engraved block, however, was Hi by 15 inches in size, and was so 
full of blacks that until about 1821 no press was found powerful 
enough to print it. When finally printed, it had to be done in a very 
limited edition on India paper, which alone was smooth enough. By 
that time the block had split. A prime example of the dominance of 
the copper-engraved linear structure inherited from the sixteenth 
century. 

55. The famous classical statue of Niobe and her Daughter, from 
the Penny Magazine in 1833 after page 80 

Reduced. The Penny Magazine, started in 1832 by Charles Knight, 
was the first cheap illustrated English weekly, and rapidly reached a 
circulation of 200,000 copies. This engraving on wood was coarsely 
worked to be printed rapidly on cheap paper in a power press. Far from 
being a deliberate caricature, it was a serious attempt to bring informa- 
tion and culture to the greater British public. 

56. Portion of a wood-engraving of a drawing on the block by 
Daumier (pr. coll) facing page 81 

Enlarged. While in England they were' making pale wood-engravings 
like those in the Tennyson of 1857, the French began to make more 
full-bodied illustrations. This one appeared in Le Monde lllustre in 
the middle 1860*s. It was engraved by Maurand. At the beginning of 
the present century such prints as this had great influence on French 
original wood-engraving, e.g. in the work of Lepere, who once owned 
the rubbed proof from which this reproduction is taken. 

57. Portion of the wood-engraving after Giotto's 'The Salutation*, 
from Arena Chapel Padua, London, 1860 (MM) 

facing page 96 

About actual size. The set of wood-engravings from which this is taken 
introduced Giotto's paintings in the Arena Chapel to the English 
speaking world. The accompanying text was written by Ruskin. A 
perfect example of how the mid-Victorian engravers unconsciously 
transformed figures from the distant past into masqueraders from 
Barchester Towers. From the time when Diirer translated Mantegna 
into Nuremberg German to this translation of Giotto into 'refined' 
nineteenth-century English transformation of this kind was inevitable 
in all printed copies or reproductions of works of art 

XX 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

58. W. Hohnan Hunt's illustration of The Lady of Shalott*, in 
the Tennyson of 1857 after page 96 

About actual size. Between 1832 (the Penny Magazine) and 1857 (the 
Tennyson) great changes had been made in paper-making and in the 
techniques of wood-engraving and printing. It would have been im- 
possible to issue a trade edition of a book illustrated in this way in 
1832. Hunt drew his little picture directly on the block, which was then 
sent to the Dalziel shop, where it was engraved 'in facsimile'. The block 
was signed by the shop. 

59. Reproduction of a collotype of a photograph of Hunt's draw- 
ing on the block for 'The Lady of Shalotf (here reproduced 
by kind permission of Mrs. Michael Joseph) after page 96 

About the actual size of the collotype in G. S. Layard's Tennyson and 
his Pre-Raphaelite Illustrators, London, 1894. At the time Layard's 
book was printed no half-tone could be made that was adequate to 
the reproduction of this drawing. 

60. Portion of a relief print by Ch. Jacque, of unknown origin, 
and presumably in the 1870's (pr. coll.) after page 96 

About actual size. Reproduced from a China paper proof of a block 
made by a variety of the Comte process, that preceded GiUofs dis- 
covery of a method of transferring a drawing to a plate by photo- 
graphic means. 

61. Paper photograph of a Latticed Window at Lacock Abbey, 
made by Fox Talbot in August, 1835 (British Crown Copy- 
right. Science Museum, London (Fox Talbot Collection)) 

after page 96 

About actual size. The pen and ink inscription is in Fox Talbot's 
handwriting. This is perhaps the earliest known photograph printed 
from a negative on paper. 

62. Bolton's wood-engraving after Flaxman's relief 'Deliver us 
from Evil', from Bohn's edition (1861) of the Jackson and 
Chatto Treatise on Wood-engraving after page 96 

About actual size. Bolton had the surface of a wood-block sensitized 
and a photograph made on it through the image thus attained. It was 
one of the first reproductive wood-engravings made through a photo- 
graphic image instead of through a drawing on the block by an inter- 
mediary draughtsman. This procedure eventually became the typical 
late nineteenth-century way of making reproductive book illustrations. 

63. Portion of a wood engraving by W, J. Linton (pr. coll.) 

after page 96 

Enlarged. From a proof impression on fine paper that belonged to 

xxi 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

Linton. The apogee of English reproductive white line engraving on 
wood was reached in the last quarter of the nineteenth century in such 
prints as this freely drawn with the engraving tool through a photo- 
graphic image on the block. The advent of the cross line half-tone 
screen for photo-mechanical reproduction, in the 1890's, put an end 
to this kind of work. 

64. Portion of a pen-drawn lithograph by Stothard, from the 
Poly autographic Album, London, 1803 (pr. coll.) 

facing page 97 

Enlarged. This album was the first set of artistic lithographs. It had 
not yet been discovered that lithography had any special qualities of 
its own, or that it could be more than a cheap way of getting repro- 
ductions of conventional drawings. 

65. Portion of one of Goya's four lithographs of Bull Fights (MM) 

facing page 112 

Reduced. Made about 1825 by Goya at Bordeaux, this set contained 
the first freely drawn, scraped, and scratched, powerful original 
pictures on stone. 

66. Portion of Delacroix's lithograph of La Soeur de Du Guesclin 
(MM) after page 112 

About actual size. Delacroix was perhaps the greatest of the French 
romantic painter-lithographers. He laboured as seriously and carefully 
over elaborately worked prints like this as he did over his paintings. 

67. Portion of Daumier's lithograph entitled 6 Un zeste! un rien! et 
1'omnibus se trouve complet,' which appeared in Le Boulevard 
in 1862 (pr. coll.) after page 112 

Reduced. Daumier, being regarded by all but few as merely a comic 
newspaper caricaturist, was not accepted by the world as one of the 
greatest artists of his century until long after his death. His work 
suffered from those three greatest obstacles to serious artistic repu- 
tation abundance, cheapness, and a sense of humour. . 

68. Portion of Manet's lithograph 'Les Courses' (MM) 

after page 112 

About actual size. In France, where sketches were taken seriously as 
works of art, many of the painters of the nineteenth century used litho- 
graphy to publish work of this kind. 

69. 'Engraving' of a classical Roman wall paintiftg, from Lodge's 
English translation of Wmckelmann's History of Ancient Art, 
Boston, 1880 after page 112 

About actual size. When this standard translation of the 1840's was 
republished in 1880, the badly worn and reworked old plates were still 

xxii 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

thought adequate to represent the things that Winckelmann wrote 
about. They explain a great deal of old aesthetic theorizing and values. 
Today such a print as this smacks, not of any ancient classical work, 
but of the decorations which similar reproductions inspired in nine- 
teenth-century German beer halls. Its 'original', about which Winckel- 
mann's was comically enthusiastic, was actually an eighteenth-century 
fake. 

70. Illustration by Daniel Vierge from Quevedo's Pablo de Segovie, 
Paris, 1881 (MM) after page 112 

About actual size. The reproduction is made from a China paper copy 
of the book, which was one of the first to be illustrated with photo- 
graphic line blocks from specially made drawings. 

71. Portion of an early grain half-tone, after a drawing by Natoire, 
that appeared in U Artiste in 1882. after page 112 

Enlarged. This half-tone process was regarded as being so remarkable 
that the reproductions made in it for L* Artiste were specially printed 
on brownish paper and 'tipped* into the magazine. The lack of contrast 
and the unevenness of the texture of the reproduction are obvious. 

72. An early cross line half-tone, from Furtwangler's Meisterwerke 
der Griechischen Plastik of 1893 facing page 113 

Enlarged. Although this was a half-tone reproduction of a photograph, 
it had to be reworked by hand, as can be seen all through the deep 
shadows. The high lights that give shape to the parts of the head in 
deep shadow have been put in by retouching. 

73A. The head of Laocoon as it was engraved by Marco Dente, who 
died in 1527 (photo, MM) facing page 128 

73B. The head of Laocoon as it appeared in the woodcut in Mar- 
lianfs Urbis Romae Topographia, Rome 1544 (photo. MM) 

facing page 128 

74A. The head of Laocoon as Sisto Badalocchio etched it about 
1606 (photo. MM) after page 128 

74s. The head of Laocoon as Thurneysen engraved it for Sandrarfs 
Sculpturae veteris admiranda, sive delineatio vera . , ,, Nurem- 
berg, 1680 (photo. MM) after page 128 

75A. The head of Laocoon as Ransonette reproduced it for Pon- 
celin's Chef-d'ceuvres de Yantiquite . . ., Paris, 1784 (photo. 
MM) after page 128 

75s. The head of Laocoon as Piroli engraved it for the 'Musee 
Napoleon 9 , Paris, 1804 (photo. MM) after page 128 

xxiii 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

76A. The head of Laocoon as it appeared in the complete edition 
of Winckelmann, Prato (1834) (photo. MM) after page 128 

76B. The head of Laocoon as it appeared in the *Clarac\ Paris, 
1839-1841 (photo. MM) after page 128 

77 A. The head of Laocoon as it was engraved on wood for Ltibke's 
Grundriss . . ., Stuttgart, 1868 (photo. MM) after page 128 

7?B. The head of Laocoon as it was illustrated in Murray's History 
of Greek Sculpture, London (1890) (photo. MM) 

after page 128 

78. Engraved portrait of Simon de Montfort, from Montfaucon's 
Les Monuments de la Monarchic Franfaise, Paris, 1730 (MM) 

after page 128 

About actual size. This book was a serious attempt to deal with 
mediaeval art. Little could more accurately reflect the eighteenth 
century's lack of understanding of that art than this print, which is 
solemnly said in the book to have been taken from a painted window 
at Chartres. For us the print has a much closer resemblance to King 
Padella of Crim Tartary, the father of Prince Bulbo, than to any 
mediaeval work of art. 

79. A classical head in the Townley Collection as it was published 
in the Specimens of Ancient Sculpture issued by the Society 
of Dilettanti in 1 809 (MM) after page 128 

Enlarged. These expensive engravings, made a few years before the 
Elgin Marbles were brought to London, were thought at the time to 
be the best possible reproductions of classical sculpture. It is easy to 
see why connoisseurship based on such reproductions as this was so 
unsound. 

80. Portion of an etching of the Parthenon Theseus, from Richard 
Lawrence's Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon at Athens,, 
London, 1818 (MM) facing page 129 

Reduced. This book contained one of the earliest sets of reproductions 
of its now famous subjects. Lawrence's bare and insensitive outlines 
probably conveyed as much valid information about his originals as 
did the elaborate 'machine finished' engrayings in the Specimens of 
Ancient Sculpture of 1809 about theirs. 

81 . Portion of the wood-engraving of the Parthenon Theseus which 
appeared in Overbeck's Geschichte der Griechischen Plastik of 
1869 facing page 132 

Enlarged. The picture was drawn and not photographed, on the block. 
It shows that in 1869 the illustrators and engravers for text books were 

xxiv 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

still dominated by the formal linear scheme invented by the engravers 
on copper at the end of the sixteenth century. 'A certain conservatism' 
may be said to be the distinguishing mark of all text-book illustration 
even to the present day. 

82. A head from the 'etched state' of the print after Moreau le 
jeune for 'Les Delices de la Maternite' in the set of engravings 
known as the Monument du Costume, Paris, 1777 (MM) 

facing page 133 

Enlarged. Preliminary etching of this kind was known as 'forwarding*. 
It played little or no part in the effect of the finished print. The taste 
of the time did not approve such summary and expressive use of line 
in its printed pictures. 

83. The same head from c Les Delices de la Maternite', after it had 
been finished by the engraver and by him reduced to the 
accustomed linear system. That this killed all its colour and 
expression was not thought a matter of importance (MM) 

facing page 140 

84. A modern half-tone, made for this book, of a detail from 
Rembrandt's painting of 'An Old Woman Cutting her Nails* 
(photo. MM) facing page 141 

Modern panchromatic photographic emulsions and modern cross line 
half-tone process, together with the improvements in presses and press 
work and in the making of very smooth papers, have made possible 
the illustration of cheap books and magazines with reproductions such 
as this, in which the actual surfaces of the objects reproduced are made 
visible. The lines and dots of the process are too small to be seen by the 
unaided human eye, and no longer remain to distort and falsify the 
pictorial reports as they did in all the earlier hand-made graphic 
processes and in the early half-tones. In this half-tone there are 133 
dots to the linear inch. 



XXV 



I 

INTRODUCTION 

THE BLOCKED ROAD TO 

PICTORIAL COMMUNICATION 



IN 1916 and 1917, when the department of prints of the 
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was being 
started, there was much talk and argument about what the 
character of its collection should be. In the course of those 
discussions I became aware that the backward countries of the 
world are and have been those that have not learned to take full 
advantage of the possibilities of pictorial statement and com- 
munication, and that many of the most characteristic ideas and 
abilities of our western civilization have been intimately related to 
our skills exactly to repeat pictorial statements and communications. 
My experience during the following years led me to the belief 
that the principal function of the printed picture in western 
Europe and America has been obscured by the persistent habit of 
regarding prints as of interest and value only in so far as they can 
be regarded as works of art. Actually the various ways of making 

P.V.C. 1 C 



INTRODUCTION 

prints (including photography) are the only methods by which 
exactly repeatable pictorial statements can be made about any- 
thing. The importance of being able exactly to repeat pictorial 
statements is undoubtedly greater for science, technology, and 
general information than it is for art. 

Historians of art and writers on aesthetic theory have ignored 
the fact that most of their thought has been based on exactly 
repeatable pictorial statements about works of art rather than 
upon first-hand acquaintance with them. Had they paid attention 
to that fact they might have recognized the extent to which their 
own thinking and theorizing have been shaped by the limitations 
imposed on those statements by the graphic techniques. Photo- 
graphy and photographic process, the last of the long succession 
of such techniques, have been responsible for one of the greatest 
changes in visual habit and knowledge that has ever taken place, 
and have led to an almost complete rewriting of the history of art 
as well as a most thoroughgoing revaluation of the arts of the past. 

Although every history of European civilization makes much 
of the invention in the mid-fifteenth century of ways to print words 
from movable types, it is customary in those histories to ignore the 
slightly earlier discovery of ways to print pictures and diagrams. 
A book, so far as it contains a text, is a container of exactly repeat- 
able word symbols arranged in an exactly repeatable order. Men 
have been using such containers for at least five thousand years. 
Because of this it can be argued that the printing of books was no 
more than a way of making very old and familiar things more 
cheaply. It may even be said that for a while type printing was 
little more than a way to do with a much smaller number of proof 
readings. Prior to 1501 few books were printed in editions larger 
than that handwritten one of a thousand copies to which Pliny the 
Younger referred in the second century of our era. The printing of 
pictures, however, unlike the printing of words from movable 
types, brought a completely new thing into existence it made 
possible for the first time pictorial statements of a kind that could 
be exactly repeated, during the effective life of the printing surface. 

2 



THE BLOCKED ROAD 

This exact repetition of pictorial statements has had incalculable 
effects upon knowledge and thought, upon science and technology, 
of every kind. It is hardly too much to say that since the invention 
of writing there has been no more important invention than that 
of the exactly repeatable pictorial statement. 

Our failure to realize this comes in large measure from the 
change in the meaning and implications of the word 'print* during 
the last hundred years. For our great grandfathers, and for their 
fathers back to the Renaissance, prints were no more and no less 
than the only exactly repeatable pictorial statements they knew. 
Before the Renaissance there were no exactly repeatable pictorial 
statements. Until a century ago, prints made in the old techniques 
filled all the functions that are now filled by our line cuts and half 
tones, by our photographs and blueprints, by our various colour 
processes, and by our political cartoons and pictorial advertise- 
ments. If we define prints from the functional point of view so 
indicated, rather than by any restriction of process or aesthetic 
value, it becomes obvious that without prints we should have very 
few of our modern sciences, technologies, archaeologies, or ethno- 
logies for. all of these are dependent, first or last, upon informa- 
tion conveyed by exactly repeatable visual or pictorial statements. 

This means that, far from being merely minor works of art, 
prints are among the most important and powerful tools of modern 
life and thought. Certainly we cannot hope to realize their actual 
role unless we get away from the snobbery of modern print collect- 
ing notions and definitions and begin to think of them as exactly 
repeatable pictorial statements or communications, without regard 
to the accident of rarity or what for the moment we may regard as 
aesthetic merit. We must look at them from the point of view of 
general ideas and particular functions, and, especially, we must 
think about the limitations which their techniques have imposed 
on them as conveyors of information and on us as receivers of that 
information. 

From very ancient times materials suitable for the making of 

3 



INTRODUCTION 

prints have been available, and apposite skills and crafts have been 
familiar, but they were not brought into conjunction for the making 
of exactly repeatable pictorial statements in Europe until roughly 
about A.D. 1400. In view of this it is worth while to try to think 
about the situation as it was before there were any prints. 

As it seems to be the usual custom to begin with the ancient 
Greeks when discussing anything that has to do with culture, I 
shall follow the precedent. There is no possible doubt about the 
intelligence, the curiosity, and the mental agility of a few of the 
old Greeks. Neither can there be any doubt about the greatness of 
their influence on subsequent European culture, even though for 
the last five hundred years the world has been in active revolt 
against Greek ideas and ideals. For a very long time we have been 
taught that after the Greeks there came long periods in which men 
were not so intelligent as the Greeks had been, and that it was not 
until the Renaissance that the so intelligent Greek point of view 
was to some extent recovered. I believe that this teaching, like its 
general acceptance, has come about because people have confused 
their ideas of what constitutes intelligence with their ideas about 
what they have thought of, in the Arnoldian sense, as culture. 
Culture and intelligence are quite different things. In actual life, 
people who exemplify Arnoldian culture are no more intelligent 
than other people, and they have very rarely been among the great 
creators, the discoverers of new ideas, or the leaders towards social 
enlightenment. Most of what we think of as culture is little more 
than the unquestioning acceptance of standardized values. 

Historians until very recent times have been literary men and 
philologues. As students of the past they have rarely found any- 
thing they were not looking for. They have been so full of wonder 
at what the Greeks said, that they have paid little attention to what 
the Greeks did not do or know. They have been so full of horror 
at what the Dark Ages did not say, that they have paid no attention 
to what they did do and know. Modern research, by men who are 
aware of low subjects like economics and technology, is rapidly 

4 




2 S Metal cut of St. Martin, Reduced. 



THE BLOCKED ROAD 

changing our ideas about these matters. In the Dark Ages, to use 
their traditional name, there was little assured leisure for pursuit 
of the niceties of literature, art, philosophy, and theoretical science, 
but many people, nevertheless, addressed their perfectly good 
minds to social, agricultural, and mechanical problems. Moreover, 
all through those academically debased centuries, so far from there 
having been any falling off in mechanical ability, there was an 
unbroken series of discoveries and inventions that gave the Dark 
Ages, and after them the Middle Ages, a technology, and, there- 
fore, a logic, that in many most important respects far surpassed 
anything that had been known to the Greeks or to the Romans of 
the Western Empire. 

As to the notorious degradation of the Dark Ages, it is to be 
remembered that during them Byzantium was an integral part of 
Europe and actually its great political centre of gravity. There was 
no iron curtain between the East and the West. Intercourse be- 
tween them was constant and unbroken, and for long periods 
Byzantium was in actual control of large parts of Italy. We forget 
the meaning of the word Romagna, and of the Byzantine arts of 
Venice and South Italy. These things should be borne in mind in 
view of the silent implication that Byzantium, from which later on 
so much of Greek learning came to the West, never lost that 
learning. This implication is probably quite an untrue one. Both 
East and West saw a great decline in letters. The Academy at 
Athens was closed in A.D. 529. At Byzantium the university was 
abolished in the first half of the eighth century. Psellos said that 
in the reign of the Emperor Romanes (1028-34) the learned at 
Constantinople had not reached further than the portals of Aris- 
totle and only knew by rote a few catch words of Platonism. The 
Emperor Constantine (1042-54) revived the university on a small 
scale and made Psellos its first professor of philosophy. Psellos 
taught Platonism, which he personally preferred to the then reign- 
ing variety of Aristotelianism. So far as concerned intellectual 
activity there was probably much more in the West than in the 
East, though directed at such different ends that it evaded the 

5 



INTRODUCTION 

attention of students trained in the traditional classical lore. Where 
the East let so much of the inherited culture as it retained become 
gradually static and dull, the West turned from it and addressed its 
intelligence to new values and new things. 

In spite of all this it was the Dark Ages that transmitted to us 
practically all we have of Greek and Roman literature, science, and 
philosophy. If the Dark Ages had not to a certain extent been 
interested in such things it is probable that we should have very 
little of the classical literatures. People who laboriously copy out 
by hand the works of Plato and Archimedes, Lucretius and Cicero, 
Plotinus and Augustine, cannot be accused of being completely 
devoid of so-called intellectual interests. We forget that the Greeks 
themselves had forgotten much of their mathematics before the 
Dark Ages began, and it is easy to overlook such a thinker as 
Berengar, in the West, who, about the middle of the eleventh cent- 
ury, challenged much of what we regard as Greek thought by assert- 
ing that there is no substance in matter aside from the accidents. 

The intelligence, as distinct from the culture, of the Dark and 
Middle Ages, is shown by the fact that in addition to forging the 
political foundations of modern Europe and giving it a new faith 
and morality, those Ages developed a great many of what today 
are among the most basic processes and devices. The Greeks and 
Romans had no thought of labour-saving devices and valued 
machinery principally for its use in war just as was the case in 
the Old South of the United States, and for much the same reasons. 
To see this, all one has to do is to read the tenth book of Vitruvius. 
The Dark and Middle Ages in their poverty and necessity produced 
the first great crop of Yankee ingenuity. 

The breakdown of the Western Empire and the breakdown of 
its power plant were intimately related to each other. The Romans 
not only inherited all the Greek technology but added to it, and 
they passed all this technology on to the Dark Ages. It consisted 
principally in the manual dexterity and the brute animal force of 
human beings, most of them in bondage. In the objects that have 
come down to us from classical times there is little evidence of any 

6 



THE BLOCKED ROAD 

actively working and spreading mechanical ingenuity . As shown by 
Stonehenge, the moving and placement of heavy stones goes back 
of the beginnings of written history. The Romans did not, however, 
pass on to the Dark Ages in the West the constantly renewed 
supply of slaves that constituted the power plant about which the 
predatory Empire was built. In other words, the Dark Ages found 
themselves stranded with no power plant and with no tradition 
or culture of mechanical ingenuity that might provide another 
power plant of another kind. They had to start from scratch. The 
real wonder, under all the circumstances, is not that they did so 
badly but that they did so well. 

The great task of the Dark and the Middle Ages was to build 
for a culture of techniques and technologies. We are apt to forget 
that it takes much longer to do this than it does to build up a 
culture of art and philosophy, one reason for this being that the 
creation of a culture of technologies requires much harder and 
more accurate thinking. Emotion plays a surprisingly small part 
in the design and operation of machines and processes, and, 
curiously, you cannot make a machine work by flogging it. When 
the Middle Ages had finally produced the roller press, the platen 
press, and the type-casting mould, they had created the basic tools 
for modern times. 

We have for so long been told about the philosophy, art, and 
literature, of classical antiquity, and have put them on such a 
pedestal for worship, that we have failed to observe the patent fact 
that philosophy, art, and literature can flourish in what are techno- 
logically very primitive societies, and that the classical peoples 
were actually in many ways of the greatest importance not only 
very ignorant but very unprogressive. Progress and improvement 
were not classical ideals. The trend of classical thought was to the 
effect that the past was better than the present and that the story 
of human existence was one of constant degradation. In spite of all 
the romantic talk about the joy and serenity of the Greek point of 
view, Greek thought actually developed into a deeply dyed pes- 
simism that coloured and hampered all classical activities. 

7 



INTRODUCTION 

It is, therefore, worth while to give a short list of some of the 
things the Greeks and Romans did not know, and that the Middle 
Ages did know. For most of the examples I shall cite I am indebted 
to Lynn White's remarkable essay on Technology and Invention 
in the Middle Ages. 1 The classical Greeks and Romans, although 
horsemen, had no stirrups. Neither did they think to shoe the 
hooves of their animals with plates of metal nailed to them. Until 
the ninth or tenth centuries of our era horses were so harnessed 
that they pushed against straps that ran high about their necks in 
such a way that if they threw their weight and strength into then- 
work they strangled themselves. Neither did the classical peoples 
know how to harness draft animals in front of each other so that 
large teams could be used to pull great weights. Men were the only 
animals the ancients had that could pull efficiently. They did not 
even have wheelbarrows. They made little or no use of rotary 
motion and had no cranks by which to turn rotary and reci- 
procating motion into each other. They had no windmills. Such 
water wheels as they had came late and far between. The classical 
Greeks and Romans, unlike the Middle Ages, had no horse collars, 
no spectacles, no algebra, no gunpowder, no compass, no cast iron, 
no paper, no deep ploughs, no spinning wheels, no methods of 
distillation, no place value number systems think of trying to 
extract a square root with either the Greek or the Roman system 
of numerals! 

The engineers who, in the sixth century A.D. ? brought the great 
monolith that caps the tomb of Theodoric across the Adriatic and 
set it in place, were in no way inferior to the Greek and Roman 
engineers. The twelfth-century cathedrals of France represent a 
knowledge of engineering, of stresses and strains, and a mechanical 
ingenuity far beyond anything dreamed of in classical times. The 
Athenian Parthenon, no matter what its aesthetic qualities, was 
but child's play as engineering compared to buildings like the 
cathedrals at Rheims and Amiens. 

It is perhaps hard for us, who have been educated in the fag 
1 Speculum, vol. XV, p. 141 (April 1940). 
8 



THE BLOCKED ROAD 

end of the traditional humanistic worship of the classical peoples, 
to realize that what happened in the ninth and tenth centuries of 
our era in North- Western Europe was an economic revolution 
based on animal power and mechanical ingenuity which may be 
likened to that based on steam power which took place in the late 
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It shifted the economic 
and political centre of gravity away from the Mediterranean with 
its technological ineptitude to the north-west, where it has been 
ever since. This shift may be said to have had its first official 
recognition in the two captures of Constantinople in 1203 and 
1204. It is customary from the philological point of view to regard 
these captures as a horrible catastrophe to light and learning, but 
in fact they actually led to the wiping out of the most influential 
centre of unprogressive backward-looking traditionalism there was 
in Europe. 

In view of the things the Greeks and Romans did not know, it 
is possible that the real reason for the so-called darkness of the 
Dark Ages was the simple fact that they were still in so many ways 
so very classical. 

It is well to remember things of this kind when we are told 
about the charm of life in Periclean Athens or in the Rome of the 
Antonines, and how superior it was to that of all the ages that have 
succeeded them. The inescapable facts are that the Greek and 
Roman civilizations were based on slavery of the most degrading 
kind, that slaves did not reproduce themselves, that the supply was 
only maintained by capture in predatory warf^e, and that slavery 
is incompatible with the creation of a highly developed technology. 
Although a few of the highly educated Greeks went in for pure 
mathematics and theoretical science, neither they nor the educated 
Romans ever lowered themselves to banausic pursuits. They never 
thought of doing laborious, mechanical things more efficiently or 
with less human pain and anguish unless they were captured and 
sold into slavery, and what they thought then did not matter. As 
all these things in the end are of great ethical importance, it should 
also be remembered that the so cultured Greeks left it to the brutal 

9 



INTRODUCTION 

Romans to discover the idea of humanity, and that it was not until 
the second century of our era that the idea of personality was first 
given expression. If the educated Greeks and Romans had de- 
meaned themselves by going in for civil technology as hard as 
they did for a number of other things the story might have 
been different. But they did not, even in matters that would 
have been greatly to the advantage of the governing groups in 
society. 

Thus, the Romans are famous for the military roads they built 
all over the Empire, and the Dark and Middle Ages are held up to 
scorn for having let those roads go to pieces. However, if we think 
that those roads were not constructed for civil traffic but as part 
of the machinery of ruthless military domination of subject peoples, 
it is possible to regard their neglect as a betterment. Those later 
Ages substituted other kinds of roads for the Roman variety, roads 
that were not paved with cemented slabs of stone for the quicker 
movement of the slogging legions, but roads that, if paved at all, 
were paved with cobbles, which in many ways and from many 
unmilitary points of view were more efficient. It is significant that 
the world has never gone back to the Roman methods of road- 
building, and that as late as the days of my own youth streets in 
both London and New York were still paved with cobbles. 

To take another example: the Greeks were great seamen. The 
Athenian Empire was a maritime empire. But the Greeks rowed 
and did not sail. If you cannot beat up into the wind you cannot 
sail. All the Greeks' sails enabled them to do was to blow down 
the wind a little faster. They did not dare to venture beyond sight of 
land. The rudder at the end of the keel and the lateen and fore and 
aft sails, like the mariner's compass, were acquisitions of the Dark 
and Middle Ages, Actually, until the Renaissance and even later, 
the Mediterranean peoples never learned how to do what we call 
sailing. The Battle of Lepanto, in 1571, was fought by men in row- 
boatslarge row-boats, to be sure which grappled with each 
other so that their men could fight it out hand to hand. The test as 
between the thought based on the ancient row-boat techniques and 

10 



THE BLOCKED ROAD 

that based on the mediaeval deep-water sailing came seventeen 
years after Lepanto, when the great Spanish Armada met the little 
English fleet. This was the crucial battle in the last long-drawn-out 
attempt of the Mediterranean to recover the hegemony it had lost 
before the end of the tenth century, and in it it went down to utter 
and disastrous defeat. Within a little more than a hundred years 
it was distant England that held Gibraltar and Port Mahon and 
was the great Mediterranean sea power. 

On the intellectual and administrative side of ancient life we 
meet the same lack of mechanical ingenuity. Few people have been 
more given to books and reading than the upper classes of Greece 
and Rome. Books were made by copying by hand. The trade in 
them flourished at Athens, at Alexandria, and at Rome. Great 
libraries were formed in the Hellenistic period and in the early 
centuries of the Roman Empire. Plato says that in his time a copy 
of Anaxagoras could be bought for a drachma, which, according 
to the Oxford Dictionary, may be considered as being worth less 
than twenty-five cents. Pliny, the Younger, in the second century 
of our era, refers to an edition of a thousand copies of a text. Had 
the Romans had any mechanical way of multiplying the texts of 
their laws and their legal and administrative rulings and all the 
forms needed for taxation and other such things, an infinite amount 
of time and expense would have been saved. But I cannot recall 
that I have either read or heard of any attempt by an ancient to 
produce a book or legal form by mechanical means. 

In its way the failure of the ancients to address their minds to 
problems of the kinds I have indicated is one of the most cogent 
criticisms that can be made of the kind of thought in which they 
excelled and of its great limitations. The Greeks were full of all 
sorts of ideas about all sorts of things, but they rarely checked 
their thought by experiment and they exhibited little interest in 
discovering and inventing ways to do things that had been un- 
known to their ancestors. They refined on ancient processes, and 
in the Hellenistic period they invented ingenious mechanical toys, 
but it is difficult to point to any technological or labour-saving 

11 



INTRODUCTION 

devices invented by them that were of any momentous social or 
economic importance. This is shown in several odd ways. For one, 
the learned writers of accounts of daily life in ancient times have 
no hesitancy in mixing up details taken from sources that are 
generations apart, as though they all related to one unchanging 
state of affairs. For another, modern students have not hesitated 
to play up as a great and profound virtue the lack of initiative of 
the Greek craftsmen in looking for new subjects and new manners 
of work. Thus Percy Gardner, lauding the Greek architects and 
stone-cutters, in his article on Greek Art in the eleventh edition of 
the Encyclopaedia Britannica, says, 'Instead of trying to invent new 
schemes, the mason contents himself with improving the regular 
patterns until they approach perfection/ One can hear the unction 
drip from that deadly word 'perfection' one of the greatest 
inhibitors of intelligent thought that is known to man. The one 
epoch-making discovery in architectural construction that was 
made by the classical peoples seems to have been the arch but 
the Romans had to bring it with them to Byzantium. Apparently 
there were no Greek voussoirs, i.e. stones so cut and shaped as to 
fit together in an arch or vault. 

Learned men have devoted many large and expensive volumes 
to the gathering together of all the literary evidence there is about 
classical painting and drawing and to the reproduction of all the 
specimens of such drawing and painting as have been found. It 
appears from these books that there are no surviving classical 
pictorial statements, except such as were made incidentally in the 
decoration of objects and wall surfaces. For such purposes as those 
there was no need or call for methods to exactly repeat pictorial 
statements. From the point of view of art as expression or decora- 
tion there is no such need, but from that of general knowledge, 
science, and technology, there is a vast need for them. The lack of 
some way of producing such statements was no less than a road 
block in the way of technological and scientific thought and 
accomplishment. 

Lest it be thought that in saying this I am merely expressing a 

12 





3. 'The Duchess'. Wood blocks from Holbein's Dance of Death, 
c. 1520, About actual size, and enlarged head. 




I 



THE BLOCKED ROAD 

personal prejudice, I shall call your attention to what was said 
about it by a very great and unusually intelligent Roman gentle- 
man, whose writings are held in particularly high esteem by all 
students of classical times. Some passages in the Natural History of 
Pliny the Elder, a book that was written in the first century of our 
era, tell the story in the most explicit and circumstantial of man- 
ners. As pointed out by Pliny, the Greeks were actually aware of 
the road block from which they suffered, but far from doing any- 
thing about it they accommodated themselves to it by falling back 
into what can only be called a known and accepted incompetence. 
More than that, I believe, they built a good deal of their philosophy 
about this incompetence of theirs. In any case, what happened 
affords a very apposite example of how life works under the double 
burden of a pessimistic philosophy and a slave economy. There is 
nothing more basically optimistic than a new and unprecedented 
contrivance, even though it be a lethal weapon. 

Pliny's testimony is peculiarly valuable because he was an 
intelligent eye-witness about a condition for which, unfortunately, 
all the physical evidence has vanished. He cannot have been the 
only man of his time to be aware of the situation and the call that 
it made for ingenuity. Seemingly his statement has received but 
slight attention from the students of the past. This is probably 
due to the fact that those students had their lines of interest laid 
down for them before the economic revolution that came to 
England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and 
did not reach Germany until after 1 870, at a time when the learned 
and the gentry knew nothing and cared less about what they 
regarded as merely mechanical things. The preoccupation of the 
post-mediaeval schools and universities with classical thought and 
literature was probably the greatest of all the handicaps to tech- 
nological and therefore to social advance. It would be interesting 
to see a chronological list of the establishments of the first pro- 
fessorships of engineering. With rare exceptions the mechanical 
callings and knowledges were in the past as completely foreign to 
the thought and life of the students of ancient times as they were 

13 



INTRODUCTION 

to the young elegants who attended the Academy or walked and 
talked with Aristotle. So far as I have been able to observe they 
still are. 

In any event, according to Bohn, what Pliny said was this: 

'In addition to these (Latin writers), there are some Greek 
writers who have treated of this subject (i.e. botany). . . . Among 
these, Crateuas, Dionysius, and Metrodoms, adopted a very 
attractive method of description, though one which has done little 
more than prove the remarkable difficulties which attended it. It 
was their plan to delineate the various plants in colours, and then 
to add in writing a description of the properties which they pos- 
sessed. Pictures, however, are very apt to mislead, and more par- 
ticularly where such a number of tints is required for the imitation 
of nature with any success; in addition to which, the diversity of 
copyists from the original paintings, and their comparative degrees 
of skill, add very considerably to the chances of losing the neces- 
sary degree of resemblance to the originals . . .* (Chap. 4, Book 25). 
'Hence it is that other writers have confined themselves to a 
verbal description of the plants; indeed some of them have not so 
much as described them even, but have contented themselves for 
the most part with a bare recital of their names, considering it 
sufficient if they pointed out their virtues and properties to such 
as might feel inclined to make further inquiries into the subject* 
(Chap. 5, Book 25). 

*The plant known as "paeonia" is the most ancient of them all. 
It still retains the name of him who was the first to discover it, 
being known also as the "pentorobus" by some, and the "glyci- 
side" by others; indeed this is one of the great difficulties attendant 
on forming an accurate knowledge of plants, that the same object 
had different names in different districts' (Chap. 10, Book 25). x 

It is to be noted that in his account of the breakdown of Greek 
botany, Pliny does not fall back upon general ideas of a woolly 

1 Quoted by permission of G. Bell & Sons, Ltd., the present publishers of 
Bonn's Library. 

14 



THE BLOCKED ROAD 

kind. There is no Zeitgeist explanation, no historicism, no sugges- 
tion that things were not done simply because people in their 
wisdom and good taste preferred not to do them even though of 
course they could have done them if they had wanted to. Pliny's 
reason is as hard and brutal a fact as a bridge that has collapsed 
while being built. This essay amounts to little more than a sum- 
mary account of the long slow discovery of ways to erect that 
bridge. 

In view of this I shall rephrase what Pliny said: The Greek 
botanists realized the necessity of visual statements to give their 
verbal statements intelligibility. They tried to use pictures for the 
purpose, but their only ways of making pictures were such that 
they were utterly unable to repeat their visual statements wholly 
and exactly. The result was such a distortion at the hands of the 
successive copyists that the copies became not a help but an 
obstacle to the clarification and the making precise of their verbal 
descriptions. And so the Greek botanists gave up trying to use 
illustrations in their treatises and tried to get along as best they 
could with words. But, with words alone, they were unable to 
describe their plants in such a way that they could be recognized 
for the same things bore different names in different places and the 
same names meant different things in different places. So, finally, 
the Greek botanists gave up even trying to describe their plants 
in words, and contented themselves by giving all the names they 
knew for each plant and then told what human ailments it was 
good for. In other words, there was a complete breakdown of 
scientific description and analysis once it was confined to words 
without demonstrative pictures. 

What was true of botany as a science of classification and 
recognition of plants was also true of an infinite number of other 
subjects of the very greatest importance and interest to men. Com- 
mon nouns and adjectives, which are the materials with which a 
verbal description is made, are after all only the names of vaguely 
described classes of things of the most indefinite kind and without 
precise concrete meanings, unless they can be exemplified by 

15 



INTRODUCTION 

pointing to actual specimens. In the absence of actual specimens 
the best way (perhaps the only way) of pointing is by exhibiting 
properly made pictures. We can get some idea of this by trying 
to think what a descriptive botany or anatomy, or a book on 
machines or on knots and rigging, or even a sempstress's hand- 
book, would be like in the absence of dependable illustrations. 
The only knowledges in which the Greeks made great advances 
were geometry and astronomy, for the first of which words amply 
suffice, and for the second of which every clear night provides the 
necessary invariant image to all the world. 

All kinds of reasons have been alleged in explanation of the 
slow progress of science and technology in ancient times and in 
the ages that succeeded them, but no reference is ever made to the 
deterrent effect of the lack of any way of precisely and accurately 
repeating pictorial statements about things observed and about 
tools and their uses. The revolutionary techniques that filled this 
lack first came into general use in the fifteenth century. Although 
we can take it for granted that the making of printed pictures 
began some time about 1400, recognition of the social, economic, 
and scientific, importance of the exact repetition of pictorial state- 
ments did not come about until long after printed pictures were 
in common use. This is shown by the lateness of most of the tech- 
nical illustrated accounts of the techniques of making things. As 
examples I may cite the first accounts of the mechanical methods 
of making exactly repeatable statements themselves. Thus the first 
competent description of the tools and technique of etching and 
engraving was the little book that Abraham Bosse published in 
1645; the first technical account of the tools and processes used 
in making types and printing from them was that published by 
Joseph Moxon in 1683; and the first similar account of wood- 
cutting, the oldest of all these techniques, was the Traite of J. M. 
Papillon, which bears on its title page the date 1766. It is not 
impossible that Moxon's Mechanick Exercises, which were pub- 
lished serially in the last years of the seventeenth century, had much 
to do with England's early start in the industrial revolution, 

16 



THE BLOCKED ROAD 

Anyone who is gifted with the least mechanical ingenuity can 
understand these books and go and do likewise. But he can do so 
only because they are filled with pictures of the special tools used 
and of the methods of using them. Parts of Moxon's account of 
printing can be regarded as studies in the economy of motion in 
manipulation. I have not run the matter down, but I should not 
be surprised if his book were not almost the first in which such 
things were discussed. 

Of many of the technologies and crafts requiring particular 
manual skills and the use of specialized tools there seem to have 
been no adequate accounts until the completion of the great and 
well illustrated Encyclopaedia of Diderot and his fellows in the 
third quarter of the eighteenth century, just before the outbreak 
of the French Revolution. But the Encyclopaedia was a very 
expensive and very large set of volumes, intended for and limited 
to the use of the rich. Curiously, the importance of its contribution 
to a knowledge of the arts and crafts has attracted comparatively 
little attention as compared to that which has been given to its 
articles on political matters, although there is good reason to think 
that they had equally great results. 

The last century is still so close to us and we are so busy keeping 
up with the present one, that it is hard for us to realize the meaning 
of the fact that the last hundred and fifty years have seen the 
greatest and most thoroughgoing revolution in technology and 
science that has ever taken place in so short a time. In western 
Europe and in America the social, as weU as the mechanical, 
structure of society and life has been completely refashioned. The 
late Professor Whitehead made the remarkable observation that 
the greatest invention of the nineteenth century was that of the 
technique of making inventions. But he did not point out that this 
remarkable invention was based in very large measure on that 
century's sudden realization that techniques and technologies can 
only be effectively described by written or printed words when they 
are accompanied by adequate demonstrative pictures. 

The typical eighteenth-century methods of book illustration 
p.v.c. 17 r> 



INTRODUCTION 

were engraving and etching. Etchings and engravings have always 
been expensive to make and to use as book illustrations. The books 
that were fully illustrated with them were, with few exceptions, 
intended for the consumption of the rich and the traditionally 
educated classes. In the eighteenth century the title pages of these 
books sometimes described them as being 'adorned with elegant 
sculptures', or other .similar words. The words 'adorned' and 
'elegant* tell the story of their limitations, mental and financial 
alike. Lest it be thought that the phrase I have just quoted came 
from some polite book of verse or essays, I may say that it has 
stuck in my memory ever since at the age of ten I saw it on the 
title page of a terrifying early eighteenth-century edition ofFoxe's 
Martyrs, in which the illustrators went all out to show just 
what happened to the Maryian heretics. Under the circumstances 
I can think of few phrases that throw more light on certain aspects 
of eighteenth-century life and thought. 

Although hundreds of thousands of legible impressions could 
be printed at low cost from the old knife-made woodcuts, the 
technique of woodcutting was not only out of fashion in the 
eighteenth century, but its lines were too coarse and the available 
paper was too rough for the woodcut to convey more than slight 
information of detail and none of texture. 

At the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the 
nineteenth century a number of very remarkable inventions were 
made. I shall mention but three of them. First, Bewick, in the 
1780's, developed the technique of using an engravers, tool on the 
end of the wood, so that it became possible to produce from a 
wood-block very fine lines and delicately gradated tints, provided 
it were printed on smooth and not too hard paper. Next, in 1798, 
Robert, in France, invented, and shortly afterwards, in England, 
Fourdrinier perfected, a paper-making machine, operated by 
power, either water or steam, which produced paper by a con- 
tinuous process. It also made possible the production of paper 
with a wove surface that was smoother than any that had pre- 
viously been made in Europe. When fitted with calendar rolls the 

18 



THE BLOCKED ROAD 

machine produced paper that was so smooth it was shiny. Finally, 
just before 1815, Koenig, a German resident in England, devised 
for the (London) Times a printing press that was operated by power 
and not by the strength of men's backs. In connection with a 
revival of Ged's earlier invention of stereotyping, these inventions 
brought about a very complete revolution in the practice of print- 
ing and publishing. The historians of printing have devoted their 
attention to the making of fine and expensive books, and in so 
doing they have overlooked the great function of books as con- 
veyors of information. The history of the cheap illustrated book 
and its role in the self-education of the multitude has yet to be 
written. 

It took but a comparatively short time for these three or four 
inventions to spread through the world. As they became familiar 
there was such a flood of cheap illustrated informative books as 
had never before been known. Nothing even approaching it had 
been seen since the sixteenth century. It took only a few decades 
for the publishers everywhere to begin turning out books of this 
kind at very low prices. In a short time the world ceased to talk 
about the 'art and mystery' of its crafts. In France they said that the 
Revolutionary law abolishing the guilds opened the careers to the 
talents, but it was actually these cheap illustrated informative books 
that opened the crafts to everyone, no matter how poor or un- 
learned, provided only that he knew how to read and to understand 
simple pictures. As examples of this I may cite the well-known 
Manuels Roret, the publication of which goes back to 1825, and 
the English Penny Cyclopaedia which began in 1833. It is to be 
noted that for a long time in the nineteenth century the upper 
classes and the traditionally educated made few contributions to 
the rapidly lengthening list of new inventions, and that so many of 
those inventions were made by what in England until very recent 
years were condescendingly referred to as 'self-educated men'. The 
fact was that the classicizing education of the men who were not 
self educated prevented them from making inventions. 

In the Renaissance they had found a solution of the dilemma 

19 



INTRODUCTION 

of the Greek botanists as described by Pliny. In the nineteenth 
century informative books usefully illustrated with accurately 
repeatable pictorial statements became available to the mass of 
mankind in western Europe and in America. The result was the 
greatest revolution in practical thought and accomplishment that 
has ever been known. This revolution was a matter as momentous 
from the ethical and political points of view as from the mech- 
anical and economic ones. The masses had begun to get the one 
great tool they most needed to enable them to solve their own prob- 
lems. Today the news counters in our smallest towns are piled 
with cheap illustrated magazines at which the self-consciously 
educated turn up their noses, but in those piles are prominently 
displayed long series of magazines devoted to mechanical prob- 
lems and ways of doing things, and it would be well for the 
cultured if they but thought a little about the meaning of that. 

I think it can be truthfully said that in 1800 no man anywhere, 
no matter how rich or highly placed, lived in such physical com- 
fort or so healthily, or enjoyed such freedom of mind and body, as 
do the mechanics of today in my little Connecticut town. 

If any one thing can be credited with this it is the pervasion of 
the cheap usefully informative illustrated book. 



20 



II 

THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 
THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY 



PRINTS began to pervade the life and thought of western 
Europe in the fifteenth century. It is therefore necessary 
to take a glance at what we have been told about that 
century. 

Probably the worst way there is to discover the most important 
thing done in any historic period is to take the word of that period 
for it. What to the generation of its occurrence is merely a casual 
happening, an amusing toy, or an impractical intellectual or 
physical adventure, in time frequently becomes all-important for 
the world. 

In spite of this we are still asked to think of the Renaissance in 
terms of what some literary people of that time thought were the 
most important things it did. Thus almost every book: dealing with 
the Renaissance says that the principal events of the fifteenth 
century were the recoveries of Greek thought and of the classical 
forms of art. This statement is so customary and is made with such 
an air of finality that most of us have come to believe it. And, yet, 
on the very face of the record, it is impossible to believe it. We 
have forgotten that the literary and artistic men who evolved and 

21 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

told us this fairy tale were much more ignorant of the Middle Ages, 
and even of the Renaissance itself, than the Middle Ages were 
ignorant of Greek thought. 

In the first place, what is called Greek thought is not a homo- 
geneous body of doctrine and knowledge reflecting a reasoned and 
unified attitude towards life and the world. What remains of it is 
a highly accidental heap of notions and odds and ends of the most 
violently contradictory kinds. If you care to look for it you can 
find a phrase in it that can be twisted to the purpose of almost 
anything you want to argue on any side of any problem. The 
Greeks never agreed about anything; they actually knew very little; 
it was quite customary for them to be intellectually dishonest; 
their arguments were designed, not to bring out the truth, but to 
down the other fellow in a forensic victory; and they had very 
loose and careless tongues. Although we are always told that 
Aristotle discovered logic, it should be obvious that no one man 
could possibly have been its discoverer. Much of Aristotle's teach- 
ing was very illogical, and on the whole it undoubtedly hampered 
subsequent thought much more than it helped it. 

In the second place, it is easy to forget that many of the 
scholastic doctrines and modes of thought which had dominated 
much of mediaeval thinking were specifically Aristotelian, which 
is to say that they were Greek. The shift away from scholasticism 
was not so much the result of any discovery of Greek thought as 
a revulsion from it. That this shift took the initial form of a limited 
and superficial fashion for neo-Platonism and for the exterior 
nudity, though not for the interior content, of Roman art, can be 
regarded as little more than a passing phase of the basic revolt. 
However important it may have seemed to certain restricted and 
loquacious portions of Renaissance society, this fashion in itself 
made singularly little difference to the part of the world that was 
beginning to think new thoughts and to do new things. 

Contrary to what we have long been taught, the effective 
thinking of the Renaissance was not merely a resurrection of 
classical ideas. As we can see it today, the really great event of 

22 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

the Renaissance was the emergence of attitudes, and kinds and 
objects of thought that were neither Aristotelian nor Platonic, nor 
yet Greek at all, but in so far as they had never attracted the 
attention of the writers and literary men, quite new and different. 
To a great extent they were the results of materials and tech- 
nological problems completely unknown to the ancient world. 
What actually happened in the fifteenth century was the effective 
beginning of that practical struggle for liberation from the tram- 
mels of Greek ideas which has been the outstanding characteristic 
of the last five hundred years. 

Passing over what the inventors, the technicians, the explorers, 
and the statesmen did, several events happened in the first half of 
the fifteenth century that are not given their due prominence in the 
standard accounts of the period. One of these was the pervasion 
of ways of making printed pictures in other words of making 
exactly repeatable pictorial statements. Another was Leon Battista 
Alberti's enunciation, in 1435, of a method of perspective drawing, 
which, whether or not he or his contemporaries knew it, provided 
a geometrical rationalization for pictorial statements of space 
relationships, that was eventually to develop into a basic geometry 
or mathematics of a qualitative as distinct from the quantitative 
Greek kind. Perspective rapidly became an essential part of the 
technique of making informative pictures, and before long was 
demanded of pictures that were not informative. Its introduction 
had much to do with that western European preoccupation with ^ 
verisimilitude, which is probably the distinguishing mark of subse- 
quent European picture making. The third of these events was 
Nicholas of Cusa's enunciation, in 1440, of the first thorough- 
going doctrines of the relativity of knowledge and of the con- 
tinuity, through transitions and middle terms, between extremes. 
This was a fundamental challenge to definitions and ideas that had 
tangled thought since the time of the ancient Greeks. 

These things, the exactly repeatable pictorial statement, a 
logical grammar for representation of space relationships in pic- 
torial statements, and the concepts of relativity and continuity, 

23 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

were and still are superficially so unrelated that they are rarely 
thought of seriously in conjunction with one another. But, be- 
tween them, they have revolutionized both the descriptive sciences 
and the mathematics on which the science of physics rests, and in 
addition they are essential to a great deal of modern technology. 
Their effects on art have been very marked. They were absolutely 
new things in the world. There was no precedent for them in 
classical practice or thought of any kind or variety. 

Now I shall try to sketch the outlines of the development of 
the printed picture during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In 
doing this I propose to regard artistic merit as a matter of sub- 
sidiary importance, and to look at the evidence from the point of 
view of that communication of visual information and ideas which, 
for the last four centuries, has been the primary function of the 
exactly repeatable pictorial statement. 

No one knows when or where in western Europe men first 
began to print designs and pictures from wood-blocks and metal 
plates. To save time and to avoid getting lost in a discussion of 
detail that, however fascinating, is of little importance, I may sum 
up the story by saying there is reason to believe that woodcuts 
were made before engravings were, and that both were made before 
etchings were. The extant evidence enables us to guess that in 
1400 there were very few if any prints in Europe. The evidence also 
enables us to know that by the middle of the fifteenth century the 
making of woodcuts and engravings was widely practised in a 
number of European countries, and that before the end of the 
century etchings were being made in south Germany. 

It is generally thought that, as the requisite tools, materials, 
and skills for the making of woodcuts were to be found in the shops 
of the painters and carvers, the making of woodcuts began in 
those shops. Similar reasoning indicates that engraving took its 
start in the shops of the gold and silver smiths, and etching in 
those of the armourers. 

The most primitive woodcuts we have were rubbings from 

24 




5. Portion of a late Impression of an early North Italian engraving of St. 

Jerome. Enlarged. 




6. Portion of the engraved Bacchanal with Silenus, by Mantegna (1431- 

1506). Reduced. 




7. The same portion of a pen and ink copy by Diirer, Reduced. 




8. Portion of an early Italian engraving after a drawing by Mantegna. 

Enlarged. 




9. Portion of an early fifteenth-century woodcut of St. Offistopto, 
About actual size. 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

wood-blocks and were not struck off in a press. The use of the 
printing press undoubtedly was known to the makers of woodcuts 
at least as early, if not earlier, than it was to the printers from 
movable types. The earliest known picture of a printing press for 
type or woodcuts is said to be that contained in the Lyonese Dance 
of Death of 1499. There is no technical description of one until 




10. The earliest picture of a printing press. Woodcut from a Dance of Death, 
Lyons, 1499. Reduced. 

almost two hundred years later. How the earliest engravings were 
printed is not known, but it was probably by some method of 
rubbing or burnishing a method still used in goldsmiths* and gun- 
smiths' shops. When the roller press came into use is not known, 
but it was presumably some time in the middle years of the fifteenth 
century. 

The dated prints prior to 1460 are so few in number and of 
such widely diverse characteristics that it is impossible to use them 
as evidence for the dating of the undated prints. They do not form 

26 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

an integrated series. Prints of advanced and primitive technical 
types have always been made simultaneously, just as they are at 
the present time. Because of this the history of prints does not 
leave the realm of conjecture and hazardous connoisseurship until 
the first use of woodcuts as illustrations in books printed from 
movable types, a very large and useful number of which are either 
definitely dated or datable with some approximate degree of 
accuracy within a short period of years. After about 1460 the 
history of the woodcut is known to us by a long and closely 
integrated series of dated and closely datable documents. It is 
perhaps worth while to mention, in passing, that after that time 
the fifteenth-century woodcuts in books are in general much more 
interesting as works of art than are the single-sheet woodcuts. 

The earliest book printed from type to contain woodcuts is 
said to be the Edelstein of Ulrich Boner, which was printed at 
Bamberg by Ulrich Pfister, a church dignitary and amateur printer 
who seems to have had no relations with Gutenberg and his circle. 
Pfister produced two different editions of the Edelstein with the 
same illustrations, one of them undated, the other dated 1461. It is 
interesting to notice that this is eleven years earlier than the date 
in the earliest known dated block-book. 

The integrated series of engravings does not begin until some- 
what later. The use of engravings for book illustrations was rare 
and sporadic until about the middle of the fifteen-hundreds. We 
have rough ideas about when many of the early engravers worked, 
but their prints are rarely dated and it is impossible to arrange 
their prints in time orders, let alone in chronological lists. 

A small number of the earliest types of single-sheet woodcuts 
were merely patterned papers to be pasted on boxes and other 
objects as decoration. Some of the earliest types are to be found 
on playing-cards. But most of the early single-sheet woodcuts were 
of religious subjects. The same things are true in general of the 
earliest engravings, with the remarkable exception that quite a 
number of pattern designs for the use of gold- and silversmiths 
are to be found among them. These pattern designs seem to be the 

27 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

first exactly repeatable pictorial statements that were intended to 
provide ideas or information that could be put to work. 

The subject matter of a print, like its purpose and the social 
group at which it is directed, has always had a great deal to do 
with how it is made. We see this even today in the qualitative 
differences between the pictorial advertisements of the Fifth 
Avenue merchants and those of the mail order houses. The single- 
sheet woodcuts seem to have been made for very simple people. 
The figures in them are no more than class symbols, which stand 
for some particular saint or such an object of religious veneration 
as the Vernicle or the Sacred Heart. The identification of the per- 
sonage represented is accomplished by the use of an attribute or 
sign that is specially connected with him. Well before the end of 
the century the cloven hoof of manufacture showed itself in these 
prints, for there are some that have changeable heads and attri- 
butes printed from little blocks dropped into slots left for the 
purpose in the bigger blocks. Thus different saints would have 
identical bodies, clothes, backgrounds, and accessories, all printed 
from one identical block. The people for whom these prints were 
made obviously looked to them not for information but for the 
awakening of pious emotions. Doubtless there was a good deal 
of superstition also, as is indicated by the fact that a great many 
of these prints represent saints who were prayed to for protection 
against particular dangers and sicknesses. 

That these early prints were not looked to for information 
is shown in several ways in addition to those that I have men- 
tioned. Thus, the first edition of Schreiber's great catalogue of the 
fifteenth-century single-sheet woodcuts described only eleven por- 
traits and three views and all of them were made at the end of 
the century. I think I am correct in saying that there is no single- 
sheet woodcut in the Schreiber catalogue that depicts a device or 
method of doing anything, except in a wholly accidental and 
incidental manner. Except for the engraved pattern designs, the 
same thing in general is true of the early engravings. 

Another way in which we can see that the informational 

28 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

capacity of the print was not realized for a long time, is by noting 
how many of the early woodcuts were daubed up with colour care- 
lessly applied in such a way as to cover and obscure their lines. 
So far as their buyers were concerned prints were just pictures and 
not a special kind of pictorial statement that could be exactly 
repeated. Exact repeatability meant no more to the original pur- 
chasers than it does today to the buyers of greeting cards. So far as 
the maker was concerned a print was merely a picture made by a 
process which saved time and labour in quantity production. The 
printing surface from which they were struck off was no more and 
no less than a capital investment in specialized machinery. 

The only material difference between the woodcut and the 
engraving, so far as concerns things of this kind, was that the 
engraved plate wore out much faster than the wood-block and 
was more expensive to make and to print. While the functions of 
the two were the same, the engraving was, in comparison with the 
woodcut, an article of luxury. It is to be doubted that either wood- 
cuts or engravings became objects of interest to the great and the 
wealthy until towards the end of the fifteenth century. Such in- 
tellectual interests as they represented were thus distinctly of 
bourgeois kinds. It may be said that this has in general been true 
through most of the history of prints. 

The early woodcut book illustrations, like the early single-sheet 
prints, were often daubed up with coarse and careless colour. This 
practice was far less frequent in Italy than it was in the north. It 
is not improbable that many of the more popular early picture 
books were sold 'penny plain, and tuppence coloured', as was the 
famous Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493. The Schatzbehalter of 1491 
actually contains an instruction for the colouring of one of its 
pictures. The illustrations of the Pfister books in the 1460's were so 
painted up that they became merely crude and gaudy decorations 
of the printed pages. 

One of the most curious survivals in thought about the design 
of picture books is the widely held and expressed notion that 
illustrations are mere decorations, and that as such no illustrations 

29 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

are 'good' unless, as people say, they 'harmonize' with the printed 
text pages and do not attract attention to themselves or interfere 
with the balance of the blocks of type. This procrastean notion 
flourishes among people who know books only as means for 
diversion and who think that the way to test the design of a book is 
to look at it two pages at a time although no mere human being 




II. Woodcut from Torquemada's Meditationes, Rome, 1473. Reduced. 

can read more than one page or see more than one illustration 
at a time. This idea was loudly expressed by William Morris and 
some of the typographical ideologues who followed in his train. 
The irony of the doctrine can only be fully appreciated when 
we think that very few of the greatly illustrated books conform 
to the Morrisanian teaching, while many very poorly illustrated 
books do. 

In the following survey, I regret that I shall be able to mention 
only a very few of the more notable books. Other persons familiar 
with the material might easily select quite different examples for 
comment without in the least changing the general argument. 

30 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

It was not until 1467, at Rome, that the earliest set of datable 
prints was issued that purported to be pictures of precisely identi- 
fiable and locatable objects. These were the woodcuts in the 
Cardinal Torquemada's Meditations on the Passion of Our Lord. 
According to the first and the last sentences in the book, they 
represent pictures with which the Cardinal had decorated his 




12. A machine gon. Portion of a woodcut in Valturius's De re mtlitari, 
Verona, 1472. Reduced. 

titular church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. As the book was 
one of edification and not of information, this fact was probably 
a matter of complete indifference to its readers, but doubtless the 
Cardinal took great pride in it. 

Five years after the appearance of the Torquemada, there 
appeared at Verona, in 1472, an edition of Valturius's Art of War, 
which was illustrated with many large and small woodcuts specific- 
ally representing machinery and its uses. This was not edification 
at all, and neither was it mere decoration. It was the deliberate 
communication of information and ideas. The historians have 

31 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

concentrated their interest on some technicalities in the printing 
of the book and on the identity of the designer of the woodcuts, 
but they have unanimously overlooked the importance of these 

NOMEN HERBAE ASP AR AGI 
AGRESTIS. 





13. * Asparagus agrestis', woodcut from the herbal of 
the Pseudo-Apukius, Rome, c. 1483. About actual size. 

illustrations as the first dated set of illustrations made definitely 
for informational purposes. Whatever we may think about Val- 
turius's machines from our present-day mechanical point of view, 
it seems certain that on the whole they represent a very notable 

32 




14. Head from an early German engraving by the Master E.S. Enlarged. 




15, Torso from the engraving of The Risen Christ between Saints Andrew 
and Longinus, by Mantegna. Enlarged. 




16. Torso from Diirer's engraving of Adam and Eve (1504). Enlarged, 




17. Torso from Durer's woodcut of The Trinity (1511). Enlarged. 




18. Torso from Marc Antonio's early engraving of Pyramus and Thlsbe 

(1505), Enlarged. 




19. Portion of Marc Antonio's late engraving of Jupiter and Cupid (c. 1518). 

Enlarged. 




20. Portion of Lucas of Leyden's engraving of Lot and his daughters ( 1 530). 

Enlarged- 




21. Portion of an engraving of the Laocoon, published by Lafreri (mid XVI 
century). Enlarged. 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

technological advance over the practice of the classical Greeks and 
Romans. The figures in the cuts are represented in costumer's 
'classical' armour, but the things they are doing and the tools 
they are using are frequently quite unclassical. They provide a 
very pretty example of the necessity to keep in mind the difference 
between fancy costume and actuality. We are merely amused by 
deliberate modern anachronisms of this kind, as when Hamlet or 
Julius Caesar is performed in modern clothes, but when Renais- 
sance figures are represented in armour showing 'classical 5 forms 
humourless people are only too apt to say that they show the deep 
influence of classical thought, and to forget that the picture as a 
whole is a direct denial of that thought and as unclassical as it can 
possibly be. 

In 1475 Konrad von Megenburg's Book ofNaturew&s published 
at Augsburg. It was the first illustrated printed encyclopaedia, but 
its few illustrations were also encyclopaedic and unlabelled. They 
can have been of no use to anyone in search of information of a 
precise kind. A Milanese book of 1479 contains what is said to be 
the first portrait to appear in a printed book. 

Then, some time just after 1480, there was published at Rome 
the so-called Pseudo-Apuleius, a book that contains much for 
thought. Its text is that of a ninth-century botanical manuscript 
which for centuries prior to the last war was in the monastery at 
Subiaco. Its woodcuts are careless copies of the illustrations in 
that manuscript, but they are actually closer to their originals 
than we should expect in view of the then prevalent attitude to- 
wards such things. They were the final step in a long series of copies 
of copies of copies that went back to original drawings made not 
impossibly by some of the Greek botanists of whom Pliny talked. 
They point the moral of his account of why the Greek botanists 
gave up trying to illustrate their books. In any case, this was the 
first illustrated botany book to be printed, and it was also the 
first printed reproduction of both the text and the illustrations 
in a very ancient volume. It was the Adam from which sprang 
that line of facsimiles of old manuscripts and drawings that 
p.v.c. 33 E 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

every museum and university library prides itself in having on 
its shelves. 

In 1484 the herbal known as the Latin Herbarius was printed 
at Mainz. It is a large and fully illustrated volume containing many 
woodcuts of plants, that seem to have been copied from various 
older sources. It suffers, though not so badly, from the same 
trouble as the Pseudo-Apuleius. The next year, 1485, however, the 
same printer issued another and completely different herbal in 
German, which is known as the Gart der Gesundheit. Its handsome 
and well-drawn illustrations were epoch making in the history of 
prints as a medium for the conveyance of information in invariant 
form. It is pleasant to let the author tell the story in his own words. 
In his brief introduction he says: 

'. . . as man has no greater or nobler treasure on this earth 
than bodily health, I came to believe that I could undertake no 
more honourable or useful or holier work or labour, than to bring 
together a book in which the virtue and nature of many herbs and 
other creations of God, with their true colours and form, were 
made comprehensible for the consolation and use of all the world. 
Therefore, I caused this praiseworthy book to be begun by a 
master learned in medicine, who at my request brought together 
in a book the virtue and nature of many herbs out of the esteemed 
masters of medicine, Galen, Avicenna . . . and others. And when 
I was in the middle of the work of drawing and painting the herbs 
I noticed that many noble herbs did not grow in this German 
land, so that, except by hearsay, I could not draw them in their true 
colours and form. Therefore, I left the work I had begun unfinished 
and hanging in the pen until I had received grace and dispensation 
to go to the Holy Sepulchre. . . . And so, lest this noble work, 
begun but not ended, be left undone, and also that my journey 
should serve not only the salvation of my soul but all the world, 
I took with me a painter of understanding and with a subtle and 
practised hand. And so I travelled. ... In journeying through 
these kingdoms and lands I diligently learned the herbs that were 

34 




22. *Gkdiolus J , woodcut from the Gart der Gesundhtit, Mdnz, 
1485 Reduced. 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

there, and had them painted and drawn in their true colours and 
form. And afterwards, when, with God's help, I was come again 
in German land and home, the great love which I had for this 
work has moved me to finish it. ... And in order that it may be 
of use to the learned and the lay I have had it turned into 
German.' 

The Gart der Gesundheit is thus the first printed illustrated 
account of the results of a journey undertaken with scientific pur- 
poses in mind. I know of no earlier statement that a writer on a 
scientific subject refused to have his book illustrated from hearsay 
and took care that it be done directly from the original objects 
represented. Because of this it is one of the greatest monuments in 
the history of the descriptive sciences. It is to be regretted that we 
know the names neither of the man who undertook the task, of 
the learned man who assembled the literary material, nor of the 
subtle artist who made the drawings. 

In that same year, 1485, there came out at Venice an illustrated 
edition of Sacrobosco's Sphaera Mundi, a book on astronomy. 
Its diagrams included one of an eclipse, which is printed, not 
painted or stencilled, in black, red, and yellow, and is reputed to 
be the first instance in which three colours were used in a wholly 
printed picture or diagram. It is thus one of the monuments in 
the history of the exactly repeatable pictorial statement. 

The next year, in 1486, at Mainz, there appeared the first 
edition of Breydenbach's Travels. This was the first illustrated 
book of travel to come from the press. Its pictures were made by 
Erhard Rewich of Utrecht, who made the trip with the author. 
Among them are views of cities, pictures of costumes, and a 
number of Eastern alphabets. Some of these aphabets had not 
previously been seen in print. Some of the views are valuable 
documents about still extant buildings that are represented in 
them. A number of the large views are printed on folding sheets, 
that of Venice being about six feet long. It was apparently the 
first time that such things made their appearance in a printed 

36 




23. Portion of a woodcut view of Venice in Breydenbach's Peregrinations, 
Mainz, 1486. Enlarged. 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

book. The general attitude of the time towards the difference 
between first- and second-hand visual information is shown by the 
fact that Carpaccio, the great Venetian painter, was content, for 
one of his pictures, to copy from Rewich's view of Venice rather 
than to draw the buildings directly for himself. 

In 1493, a Nuremberg printer, named Hans Mayr, issued illus- 
trated catalogues of the precious objects in the possession of 
several of the German cathedrals. So far as I know these are the 
first illustrated printed catalogues of any specific collections of 
any sort of material. 

In the same year, 1493, there was published the famous Nurem- 
berg Chronicle, which is still noteworthy for the brute number of 
woodcut illustrations it contained. There are said to be no less 
than 1809 of them, but they were printed from a much smaller 
number of blocks. In addition to pictures of notable events, such 
as the six days of the creation, and objects like Noah's Ark, there 
are many portraits and views of cities. Some of these are copied 
from earlier prints. The portrait of the Sultan, ironically, is a 
version of Pisanello's medal of the Emperor John Palaeologus. 
The same heads and views appear with quite different captions in 
different parts of the book. One view does duty for no less than 
eleven separate towns. Many of the pictures, however, of German 
towns and of a few foreign ones, such as those of Venice and Rome, 
show that some endeavour was made towards at least a slight 
degree of verisimilitude. The book may perhaps be regarded as the 
culminating example of the ancient and mediaeval careless attitude 
towards verisimilitude, though it must be confessed that it has 
had serious competitors down to the present day. We find these 
competitors even in our most learned books and best museums, 
where they parade themselves as restorations of sculpture and 
models of ancient buildings. They also occur in many of the most 
advertised re-creations of old buildings, such as those at Williams- 
burg in Virginia. The classical archaeologists of a generation or so 
ago were very fond of these flights of imagination, the net result 
of which was that some observing people came to think it odd that 

38 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

so many of the Greek sculptors and architects spoke such fluent 
German. But this is a subject that, while it would richly repay 
investigation, is not popular among the learned. 

Looking back at these illustrated informational books of the 
late fifteenth century we may be inclined to laugh at most of them, 
but the fact remains that they were quite serious and that the 
information they conveyed was the best that could be provided 
by the poor fellows who gave it. If we do laugh at them, and if 
we also want to be consistent, we must also laugh at the pictures 
in many of the solemn books I studied when I was a lad, and 
even at many of those that have appeared during very recent 
years. The pictures in almost all books on art and archaeology 
that were printed prior to the time I was bom were little more than 
travesties of the objects they purported to represent. The fifteenth- 
century illustrations are actually no funnier distortions of fact 
than those in the edition of Dr. R. C. Lodge's standard translation 
of Winckelmann's History of Ancient Art that was published at 
Boston in 1880, or for that matter those in the books by Perrot 
and Chipiez, or by Luebke, or Murray, and ever so many others 
that I pored over in my childhood and youth. 

In passing it is interesting to notice that many of the little 
pamphlets that came from the Florentine presses during the last 
decade of the fifteenth century not only were illustrated but were 
distinctly political in nature. These were not only the first political 
tracts addressed to a popular audience, but their charming wood- 
cuts are the first body of printed political cartoons. 

In 1504, at Toul, in France, Pelerin published his book on 
Perspective, the first on that subject to reach print, and also the 
first to teach the modern 'three point' method. Its illustrations are 
the first to appear in a printed book in which we feel as though 
we were looking at pictures of rational spaces. 

The earliest fully illustrated account of a craft or art that I 
recall is Fantfs Theory and Practice of Writing, that was printed 
at Venice in 1514. It is a detailed description of the forms of 
written letters and of the ways of forming them with the pen. 

39 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

From this time on illustrated books of information came from 
the presses of Europe with ever increasing profusion and with 
steadily increasing accuracy of representation. It is impractical 
here to give an account of even the most important books of this 
kind that dealt with astronomy and archaeology, anatomy and 
animals, birds and fishes, machinery and techniques, costumes 
and clothing, architecture and engineering, and many other sub- 
jects, but I should like to call particular attention to several of the 
botanies, because in a way they typify the whole movement. 

The publication of the herbals of 1484 and 1485 was followed 
by that of many others in many places. For a period of almost 
fifty years most of these other books were illustrated with copies 
of the woodcuts in those two herbals, many of which were copied 
from them at second and even third hand, with a steadily decreas- 
ing size in the dimensions of the pictures and a steady increase 
in the amount of distortion of the representations. The degrada- 
tion and distortion thus introduced into the pictures perhaps 
reached their culmination in the first English herbal, the Crete 
Herbal, of 1526, in which the pictures have at last become little 
more than decorative motifs much more suited to serve as cross 
stitch patterns than for the conveyance of information. They con- 
stitute a remarkably sad example of what happens to visual 
information as it passes from copyist to copyist. 

These herbals, beginning with the Pseudo-Apuleius of about 
1480 and coming down through the Grete Herbal of 1526, are 
extremely interesting from still another point of view. When 
arranged in families and in a time order they clearly show the 
operation of what I suppose is one of the basic human char- 
acteristics. So long as the illustrators did not return to the original 
plants as sources of information about their shapes, but confined 
themselves to such knowledge of the forms as they could extract 
from pictures made by earlier men to what may be called hear- 
say and not first-hand evidence it was inevitable that they should 
rationalize their own pictorial accounts and overlook or disre- 
gard what appeared to them to be mere irrationalities in the 

40 



~~r* J cv P^ 




S 



/ / / / 



\ \ 



24. A Living Room. Woodcut from Pelerin's De Perspective Toul, 
1504. Reduced. 



41 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

pictorial accounts given by their predecessors. This rationalization 
most frequently took the form of an endeavour for symmetry, 
which produced regular shapes that not only lost all verisimilitude 
of lines and edges but introduced a balanced arrangement of 
parts and forms, which, however satisfying to mental habits, re- 
sulted in a very complete misrepresentation of the actual facts. 
I am sure that all sorts of morals can be drawn from these botanical 




25. Violets. Woodcut from the Grete Herbal, London, 1525. 
About actual size. 

illustrations, but shall content myself with remarking that in their 
almost comic way these pictures raise some of the most desperately 
serious problems that are known to man, for these problems are 
those of thought itself rather than of the materials with which it 
deals. There is a Latin tag which asks who it is that takes care of 
the caretakers. According to our temperaments we may laugh at 
these pictures or be condescending or up stage about them, but if 
we look at them intelligently they contain matter for the most 
humble prayer. 

As a relief from such solemn notions as these, I may call 

42 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

attention to one of the most amusing instances of trying to trans- 
form a verbal and therefore ideologically analytical and symbolic 
statement about shapes into a concrete visual image. In the Hortus 
Sanitatis of 1491 there is a description of the barnacle, which, as I 
remember, is said to be a fish that eats ships and has its bottom on 
top which of course is a perfectly correct statement about the 




26. Violets. Woodcut from Brunfels's Herbarum vivae eicones, Strassburg, 
1530. Reduced. 

shape of the creature that fastens itself under the hulls of ships. 
This statement much impressed the poor illustrator, who, accord- 
ingly, depicted a fish of some kind, with head, tail, fins and all 
the rest, but with claws, and, on its back, a very human bottom. 
The first return to nature after the herbal of 1485 came when 
Brunfels issued, at Augsburg in 1530, the first volume of his 
celebrated herbal. This was illustrated with sharply observed and 
sensitively drawn woodcuts by Hans Weiditz. Weiditz is mentioned 
only in some laudatory verses in the first edition of the first 
volume. His remarkable woodcuts have been adversely criticized 

43 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

as being portraits of particular plants, showing not only their 
personal forms and characters but the very accidents of then- 
growth, such as wilted leaves and broken stems, rather than being 
schematic statements of the distinguishing characteristics of the 
species and genera. In view of the fact that there was as yet noth- 
ing that could be called a workable classificatory system in botany, 
this criticism has always seemed to me to be a bit forehanded. 

Twelve years later, in 1542, at Basel, Fuchs published his 
celebrated herbal, in which the abundant woodcut illustrations 
no longer represented particular plants but were careful schematic 
representations of what were considered the generic forms. They 
contain no indication of either the personalities or the accidents 
of growth of the plants. The illustrations were drawn from the 
actual plants by an artist named Albert Mayer, whose drawings 
were then copied on the blocks, and doubtless given their schematic 
form, by Heinrich Fullmaurer, after which the woodcutter, Hans 
Rudolph Speckle, did his work of cutting the blocks. We know 
this because at the end of the volume there are portraits of the 
three men at work, with their names and callings. These portraits 
are the first explicit statement I recall that a set of illustrations, 
although based on drawings specifically made for the purpose of 
illustrating a text, were, as actually printed, second-hand and not 
first-hand reports. This is the first time that both artist and wood- 
cutter are given full recognition in the informational book they 
concerted to illustrate, and it is the first specific statement of the 
fact that the drawing on the block was not made by the original 
draughtsman but was a revised version of his drawing made by a 
specialist whose business it was to draw with lines that were suit- 
able for their technical purpose. I shall have much to say about the 
inevitable results of this practice and its effects upon the com- 
munication of information and ideas. It is important to notice 
that in this first forthright example the result was no longer a 
portrait of a particular thing but a schematic representation of its 
generalized or theoretical generic forms. It thus represents not 
only one of the most important steps ever consciously taken in the 

44 



Brafsfcx quartern genus* 




27. 'Kappiskraut', woodcut from Fuchs's De Stirpim ffistoria, 
Basel, 1545, Enlarged. 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

long search for a scientific classification of natural forms, but 
it also represents, quite unconsciously, one of the great steps in 
the substitution of rationalized statements of natural forms in 
place of the older, sometimes very good and sometimes very bad, 
attempts to represent the personal idiosyncrasies of such forms. 
In other words, it was a deliberate step away from the particular 
to the generalized, and as such is of the greatest importance in 
view of the subsequent history of visual information and the 
thought based on it. 

Before leaving the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century woodcuts, 
it should be said that with few exceptions they were what are called 
'facsimile' cuts, that is to say that the woodcutter's task was 
primarily to cut out the whites from between the lines of the 
artists' drawings on the blocks. This was, therefore, in theory not 
a translation or rendering but a preserving of the artist's drawing 
on the block. Some of the German woodcutters reached a very 
high degree of skill in their ability to cut out the whites without 
too much hurting the qualities of the lines. As examples I may 
mention the blocks for Holbein's Dance of Death, and for such 
prints by Diirer as his little round Virgin and Child after the 
engraving by Mantegna. There is strong reason to think that Diirer 
himself cut some of his earlier blocks, though many of the later 
ones were cut by professionals, some of whom are known to us 
by name. 

Of the relief metal cuts of the late fifteenth century there is 
little to be said beyond the facts that comparatively few of them 
were made and that among them are the first examples of relief 
work in white on black grounds. Some of the white lines and dots 
were made by striking punches into the soft metal of the printing 
surfaces, much in the manner still used by silversmiths. Others 
were simply excavated with the ordinary engraving tool. The 
technical notion implicit in this latter method did not come into 
its own until the end of the eighteenth century in England, when 
for the first time it became common knowledge that an engraving 
tool could be used on a wooden block, provided the printing surface 

46 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

of the block was at right angles to its grain. As developed, this 
method of working on wood provided most of the nineteenth 
century's book and magazine illustration. 

In the course of the first half of the skteenth century what I 
may call the informational pressure on the woodcut illustration, 
that is, the cramming of more and more lines and detailed informa- 
tion into the given areas, became notable. This resulted in immedi- 
ate difficulty for the printers, and probably explains why it was 
that such very finely detailed blocks as those for Holbein's Dance 
of Death, although presumably made about 1520, did not appear 
in book form until 1538. Wood-blocks, until the early years of 
the nineteenth century, were inked, as was type, not with rollers, 
as in our modern techniques, but by pounding them with large 
stuffed leather balls charged with ink. The least carelessness in the 
use of the balls produced spotty and clogged impressions, and this 
meant that good impressions could only be produced by very slow 
and correspondingly expensive press work. In the book form of 
the Dance of Death, two good impressions are followed by two 
poor ones, the good ones on the face of the paper and the poor 
ones on its back. This unevenness of impression could not be 
avoided by the printer of books with very fine cuts, because it 
came from the paper, which as made in those days was much 
smoother on one side than on the other. When the lines and the 
furrows in the paper were coarser than the lines on the block the 
tops of the lines in the paper took more ink from the block than 
did the furrows between them. There are many fine textured wood- 
cut book illustrations of the middle of the sixteenth century which 
were rendered almost illegible by the streakiness that came from 
this. 

By the fifteen-fifties the woodcut had reached the limit of 
minuteness of work beyond which it could not go so long as there 
was no change in the techniques of paper-making and of inking 
the blocks. Although a few fifteenth-century books had been 
illustrated with engravings, it was not until about the middle of 
the sixteenth century that there began, slowly and sporadically at 

47 




28* Otto Heinrich, Count Schwarzenburg. Portion of a woodcut by Tobias 
Stimmer (1539-1582). Enlarged. 




29. Portion of an engraving by C. Cort (c. 1530-1571) after Titian. Enlarged- 




30. Torso from an engraving of Bacchus by Goltzius (1558-1616). Enlarged. 






* pour auec tespoint f s'fe>ies trat$$ro& et 
' fey QccoMitf 



A 




31. A Page from Bosse's Treatise on Engraving of 1645. 
Enlarged. 




32. Portion of an early impression of Mantegna's. engraving of the Bacchanal 
* with the Wine Press. Enlarged. 




33. The same portion of a late impression of the same engraving. 




34. Head from the etched portrait of Frans Snyders by Van Dyck (1599- 

1641). Enlarged. 




35. Head from the engraved portrait of Van Baelen by du Pont (1603-1658) 
after Van Dyck. Enlarged. 




36. Head from an engraving by Vorstermans (1595-1667) after a drawing of 
an ancient marble by Rubens. Reduced. 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

first and then with increasing commonness and regularity, the 
flood of books illustrated with engravings and etchings processes 
which did not suffer from the limitations interposed by the paper 
and the method of inking. 

An adequate explanation of these limitations would require a 
long and boring description of minute details, but it may be said 
that in spite of all our modern skills it is still a mechanically simpler 
task to ink and pull good clean impressions from microscopically 
fine lines sunk below the surface of a sheet of polished metal than 
it is to ink and pull good clean impressions from what in com- 
parison are very coarse lines which stand up from a surface, 
whether it be of metal or wood. It depends on the difference 
between filling sunk lines with ink and then wiping away the excess 
of ink from the surface, and covering the tops of raised lines 
with ink and not being able to get rid of any excess of ink on the 
shoulders and sides of the lines. It also depends on the difference 
between squeezing softened paper into the ink contained in sunk 
lines and squeezing ink on the tops of raised lines into paper. We 
must always remember that while an etched or engraved line stands 
up above the surface of the paper, a woodcut or other relief line 
is sunk into the surface of the paper. The extent to which any line 
stands up from or lies below the surrounding paper has much to 
do with what is called quality of impression. 

The engraved and etched copper plates were more expensive 
to make and use than wood-blocks. They were slower to print 
from and could not be made to yield such enormous numbers of 
impressions, but they were able to provide far more detail with- 
out getting so fine in texture that they wore out before a sizable 
edition could be run off from them. We shall see how in the late 
sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries the engravers worked 
out techniques of engraving that greatly increased the number of 
good impressions they could get from their plate. 

For a while the woodcutters tried to compete with the copper 
engravers by imitating as best they could their linear techniques, 
as can be seen for example in the blocks made for the mid-century 
p.v.c. 49 F 



THE ROAD BLOCK BROKEN 

Venetian publishers and in those by such northern artists as 
Amman and Stimmer, but the result was merely a generation of 
bad and streaked and spotty illustrations. 

By early in the 1600's the pictorial woodcut had been driven 
from the pages of all but the smallest number of serious and 
elegant books. It lingered on in the chap-books and fly sheets 
made for sale to the peasants and the less educated classes, but 
retained its place in the purely decorative initials and head and tail 
pieces which were recognized as necessary parts of the printer's 
equipment. A few artistic single-sheet woodcuts were made during 
the seventeenth century, but their number is small and they were 
apt to be large and decorative rather than small and informative. 
Naturally, a few original prints managed to find their way into 
books, but they were unusual, and, in general, not having the 
fashionable textures that came from the interposition of the 
reproductive engraver between the artist and the printing surface, 
they were not popular. 

The reign of the woodcut was over. The importance of this 
comes from the fact that with the woodcut's disappearance from 
the pages of books the original print, that is, the first-hand pic- 
torial statement of facts, also almost vanished from the pages of 
books. This was a great but ignored event in the history of Euro- 
pean eyesight and had consequences of the greatest importance. 



50 



Ill 

SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX 

A RULE OF THE ROAD 
THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 



MY story has now reached a point at which it is neces- 
sary to give thought to some problems of a very 
general nature. Awareness of them is essential to 
an understanding of my argument. Many people 
regard these problems as highly theoretical and of no practical 
interest, but as I look back at my thirty years in an art museum it 
seems to me that a great deal of my time was devoted to wrestling 
with them as immediate and concrete difficulties. Here it is only 
possible to call attention to them, for their careful analysis would 
require a long and difficult treatise. 

In the museum I learned the bitter way how inadequate words 
are as tools for description, definition, and classification of objects 
each of which is unique. I found that while I was not much inter- 
ested in the actual processes which go on inside a man's brain and 
nervous system, I was desperately interested in the extent to which 
he could communicate the results of those processes. I also learned 

51 



SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX 

that baptism is neither explanation., nor description, nor definition. 
Baptism, the giving of a name, is merely the tieing together in 
association of a particular object or quality and a particular word. 
For those who know both the names and the objects or qualities 
to which they belong, the names do away with any necessity for 
description, definition, and classification as means of identification. 
In many instances the more absurd the names are the better they 
are for their purposes. Thus, in the Metropolitan Museum at one 
time there was much sculpture that had to be rather elaborately 
identified when we wanted to talk about it at the lunch table, but 
there were two much-discussed pieces of sculpture, one Chinese, 
the other Greek, which somehow took names unto themselves. 
The Chinese statue was Charlie Murphy and the Greek one was 
Pink Billy. While these names were silly and irreverent, they were 
absolutely precise as identifications and they saved much time. 
Once a name of this kind becomes familiar it serves as an identifi- 
cation long after its original has vanished from earth or even if it 
has never existed, as for instance such names as Julius Caesar and 
Excalibur. 

However, very few of the specific shapes, colours, and textures 
of objects have proper names, and in a way it is very lucky for us 
that they do not, because an even smaller number of persons have 
memories so excellent that they could use them. Much of what we 
disdainfully call trade and professional jargon is nothing other 
than names that we don't happen to know. Thus for many pur- 
poses the fact that most of our words are mere class designations 
gives them their greatest usefulness. But, also, a mere class designa- 
tion may cover an infinitely large number of distinguishable 
things, or qualities, or actions. When we try to describe a particular 
object in such a way as to communicate an idea of its personality 
or unique character to someone who is not actually acquainted 
with it, all that wt can do is to pile up a selected group of these 
class names, like rings about a peg, in such a way that they overlap 
but do not coincide. By doing this it is sometimes possible to com- 
municate such information that the hearer may be able to identify 

52 



A RULE OF THE ROAD 

the object when he sees it. But beyond that it is impossible for us 
to go with words, for the ipseity, the particularity of the object, its 
this-and-no-other-ness, cannot be communicated by the use of 
class names. If they could they would not be the things we think 
they are. Actual first hand acquaintance is the only thing that does 
the trick. 

The only way that anyone can gain acquaintance with objects, 
as distinguished from knowledge of them, is through immediate 
sense awareness of them. It is thus necessary to keep clear the dis- 
tinction between sensuous acquaintance on the one hand and 
knowledge by description on the other, for otherwise we are 
certain to fool ourselves on crucial occasions. We have many 
different ways of symbolizing both acquaintance and knowledge, 
but of them all the most important are words and visual images. 
Both words and visual images may very well be compared to fish 
nets. When a fisherman tell us that there are no fish in the bay to- 
day, what he really means is that he has been unable to catch any 
in his net which is quite a different thing. The fish that are too big 
do not get into his net, and those that are too small simply swim 
through it and get away. So far as the fisherman is concerned fish 
are only such creatures as he can catch in his net. In the same way 
words and visual images catch only the things or qualities they are 
adequately meshed for. Among the things no word net can ever 
catch is the personality of objects which we know by acquaintance. 

The only set of sense awarenesses for which we have succeeded 
in making nets that catch the personality of objects are those of 
vision, and even they catch only a certain portion of it. This method 
of symbolization is the making of pictures or images, which, unlike 
spoken words, are apprehended through the same sense organs 
which give us the awarenesses we try to symbolize. Practically 
speaking, the visual image is the only symbol we have that does 
not necessarily require the translation of a sensuous awareness into 
terms of some other associated sense awareness or else of some 
extremely limited, arbitrary, and artificial convention of corre- 
spondences. It is in these translations that we come to many of 

53 



SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX 

our misunderstandings. The translation of a sensuous awareness 
that comes to us through one set of nerve channels into that which 
conies to us through another set of nerve channels is accomplished 
by association. Thus, although it is literally impossible to see a 
noise, we have no hesitation in saying that we have seen a man 
making a certain sort of noise, although in fact we have not heard 
the noise and have only seen him going through motions that we 
associate with that noise. In this instance the phrase 'making a 
certain sort of noise' is merely an associational symbol for the 
complicated series of motions we actually saw the man make. So- 
called illusions can almost invariably be shown to have arisen, 
not because the sense awareness actually involved has given us a 
false report, but because we have dragged into our account of 
what happened associated awarenesses that come to us through 
other channels. 

Thus the more closely we can confine our data for reasoning 
about things to data that come to us through one and the same 
sense channel the more apt we are to be correct in our reasoning, 
even though it be much more restricted in its scope. One of the 
most interesting things in our modern scientific practice has been 
the invention and perfection of methods by which the scientists can 
acquire much of their basic data through one and the same sensu- 
ous channel of awareness. I understand that in physics, for example, 
the scientists are happiest when they can get their data with the aid 
of some dial or other device which can be read by vision. Thus heat, 
weight, lengths, and many other things that in ordinary life are 
apprehended through senses other than vision have become for 
science matters of visual awareness of the positions of mechanical 
pointers. 

In view of this it is worth while to examine a little more closely 
the differences between word symbols and visual symbols. Spoken 
words are addressed to the ear. Visual symbols are addressed to 
the eye. A printed or written word or sequence of them is addressed 
to the eye, but is immediately, as the result of long training and 
habit, translated into sounds addressed to the ear. Actually a 

54 



A RULE OF THE ROAD 

sentence in print is composed of a number of superimposed sym- 
bols, each of which has only a vague and arbitrarily determined 
meaning. First, there are the letters of the alphabet, each of which 
is a conventional sign directing the man who sees it to make a 
series of muscular actions which, when fully executed, result in 
the making of a sound. Taken by themselves they have no meaning 
other than this conventionally assigned set of muscular actions. 
The letters of the Arabic or Hebrew alphabets have no meanings of 
this kind for those of us who are not acquainted with those lan- 
guages. Many letter designs are made according to topological 
recipes. Thus the recipe for each Roman capital letter is simple, 
abstract, and completely arbitrary. Starting with the idea of a line 
and the distinctions between up and down and right and left, it is 
devoid of any requirement of particular shape, size, or proportion. 
The recipe for each letter can be analysed into the number of times 
a given number of lines intersect one another and the order in 
which the intersections occur. This permits of an infinite number 
of particular shapes for each letter. Thus, when we see a series of 
Roman capital letters we are called upon to recognize not any 
particular shapes but a series of representative members of par- 
ticular classes of topologically defined forms. We call any member 
of the *A' class *a*, and any member of the *B' class *b*, and so on. 
The consequence of this is that when an instructor dictates a 
sentence to his ckss each student can write it down in his peculiar, 
personally adopted, set of letter shapes. Then, if all the copies 
are proof read and corrected, all the copies, in spite of their 
remarkable differences in particular shapes and general appear- 
ance, contain representative members of each letter class used in 
the sentence, arranged in the same linear order. Thanks to this all 
the sentences as written are identical in their verbal content. 

Each written or printed word is a series of conventional 
instructions for the making in a specified linear order of muscular 
movements which when fully carried out result in a succession of 
sounds. These sounds, like the forms of the letters, are made 
according to arbitrary recipes or directions, which indicate by 

55 



SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX 

convention certain loosely defined classes of muscular movements 
but not any specifically specified ones. Thus any printed set of 
words can actually be pronounced in an infinitely large number 
of ways, of which, if we leave aside purely personal peculiarities, 
Cockney, Lower East Side, North Shore, and Georgia, may serve 
as typical specimens. The result is that each sound we hear when 
we listen to anyone speaking is merely a representative member of 
a large class of sounds which we have agreed to accept as sym- 
bolically identical in spite of the actual differences between them. 
These differences are sometimes so marked that persons coming 
from different parts of the English speaking world can no more 
understand each other than if they were speaking completely 
different languages. 

The meanings of the combinations of sounds we call words are 
also the result of convention or of special agreement, and none of 
them, unless it be a proper name, has any very precise or exact 
meaning. They all have meanings that we can look up in the 
dictionary, but these dictionary meanings are frequently many in 
number and quite different from one another. Also, and most 
importantly, these dictionary meanings are words themselves, and 
in their turn have only conventional meanings. We all know the 
difference in practice between using a dictionary that contains no 
illustrations and using one that contains a good many. 

Actually, the meanings of many of the most used words depend 
on their contexts. More than that, their meanings also depend very 
largely on their syntactical use. To show this it is sufficient to take 
three words, such for example as 'James' and "Henry* and 'kicked*, 
and arrange them in sentences. Unless the context tells us we have 
no way of knowing whether one or each of the proper names repre- 
sents a boy, or a man, or a mule. The meanings of the sentences 
made of these three words depend, in English at least, on the time 
order in which they are used. 'James kicked Henry 9 has obviously 
not the same meaning as 'Henry kicked James', while 'Henry 
James kicked' has a meaning that is comically and in every way 
different from that of either of the two other sentences. 

56 



A RULE OF THE ROAD 

This means that, when the very simple three-word sentences I 
have just used are printed, each contains at least six or seven 
different layers of symbolic practice, each layer being composed of 
vague arbitrarily determined representatives of classes of shapes 
or sounds, none of which, so far as concerns communication, has 
any specific shape or sound or meaning. 

The only wonder about the system is that men are able to get 
along with it as well as they do. It certainly is not nicely calculated 
to convey either precise meanings or any definite idea of the char- 
acter, personality, or quality of anything. This is shown by the 
fact that while it is comparatively easy to write a recipe for the 
making of a class of objects, such, for example, as popovers, it is 
impossible to tell anyone what a particular popover either looks 
like or tastes like. Because of this a great many of our so-called 
descriptions or definitions are no more than generalized instruc- 
tions for the making of things, in other words, mere cook book 
recipes. This is also the reason that many so-called descriptions are 
merely accounts of very subjective feelings or emotions that an 
object has given rise to in the beholder. As fine examples of this I 
may refer to Mr. Ruskin's description of the fagade of St. Marks 
and to Mr. Pater's description of the Mona Lisa. 

As matter of fact, the moment that anyone seriously tries to 
describe an object carefully and accurately in words, his attempt 
takes the form of an interminably long and prolix rigmarole that 
few persons have either the patience or the intelligence to under- 
stand. A serious attempt to describe even the most simple piece of 
machinery, such, let us say, as a kitchen can-opener with several 
moving parts, results in a morass of words that only a highly 
trained patent lawyer can cope with, and yet the shape of that can- 
opener is simplicity itself as compared with the shape of such a 
thing as a human hand or face. 

As we think about this it becomes obvious why the tool-maker 
wants not a written description of the device which he is called 
upon to make but a series of carefully made drawings accompanied 
by terse specifications of materials, dimensions, and, especially, of 

57 



SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX 

tolerances* A purely verbal description demands of the tool- 
maker that he take a series of arbitrary, abstract, vague, word 
symbols arranged in a linear order and translate them into con- 
crete forms of material in a three-dimensional space in which there 
is no linear or time order and in which everything exists simultane- 
ously. Someone may wonder at my phrase 'materials, dimensions, 
and, especially, tolerances', and ask what tolerances have to do 
with the problem. The tolerances are the so-called accuracies 
within which the so-called measurements have to be made. They 
are literally the tool-maker's recognition that so far as he is con- 
cerned there is no such thing as a precise measurement, that for 
him there is no such thing as 'three inches', but only 'three inches 
by and large'. Actually the tool-maker requires two tolerances for 
each dimension one for the dimension itself, and one for the 
place from which the measurement of the dimension is to be taken. 
It simply goes to show that in the most exacting business of making 
instruments of precision there are no such things as exact and 
precise dimensions. 

Furthermore, if you want to hold a tool-maker to a complete 
series of dimensions and tolerances for the several parts of an 
instrument of precision you must not also try to hold him to a 
series of overall dimensions and tolerances. In both logic and 
actual practice he can do one thing or the other, but not both. 
This is the reason for the rule, in shops where they make drawings 
for instruments of precision, never to indulge in 'double dimension- 
ing', i.e. never to give both a complete series of dimensions and 
their sum. Always there must be some dimension or dimensions 
that are left to the discretion of the maker. It is merely a humble 
work-a-day solution of the ambiguity which the astrophysicist 
refers to as the non-integrability of displacement. 

In its way the situation is analogous to the problem of classifi- 
cation of natural forms which is faced by botanists and zoologists. 
You divide your total number of forms into two classes one a 
defined class you call A, the other an undefined class you call 
Not-A. You then divide the Not-A class into two sub-classes, one 

58 



A RULE OF THE ROAD 

of which you define and call B, and the other of which you do not 
define and call Not-B. You proceed from there in the same 
manner, by dividing the undefined classes into defined and un- 
defined classes. Thus there is always an undefined remainder. So 
soon as you try to break down a group of forms into classes in 
such a way that you leave none of them undefined, you are certain 
to be in trouble and to produce an impractical and unworkable 
scheme just because you are dealing with actual objects and not 
with purely logical concepts. The actual object always has some- 
thing about it that defies neat classification, unless you can manage 
always to stay in the middle of your definition and not get out 
towards its shadowy and slippery edges. In other words, our verbal 
definitions are only good so long as we do not have to think just 
what they mean. When we do have to think just what they mean 
we are more than apt to wind up with a very temperamental and 
wholly chance five to four decision. 

Visual images, unlike verbal descriptions, address themselves 
immediately to the same sense organs through which we gather 
our visual information about the objects they symbolize. At one 
end of their gamut they are completely abstract diagrams, such as 
that of the drawing for the instrument maker about which we have 
just been talking. There is an infinite number of ways of making 
any such drawing and in the end they all come to the same thing 
for very much the same reason that sentences written from dicta- 
tion by a number of persons, once they have been proofread and 
conformed, all have the same symbolic meanings, despite their 
marked differences in particular shapes and general forms. As a 
matter of fact, practically all drawings of that kind are actually 
proofread, but the man who does it is called a 'checker'. The only 
reason he can do his work is that the lines in the drawing are mere 
representatives of classes of lines and from that point of view can 
hardly be called lines at all. Certainly they do not function as 
particular lines. At the other end of the pictorial gamut we find 
things like the micro-photographs which enable us to tell exactly 
from which pistol a particular bullet was fired. In this latter case 

59 



SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX 

the micro-photograph goes behind the general class description or 
definition and reaches the personality, the what for us is the 'this- 
and-no-otherness', of a machine which until that moment had 
been merely an unidentified member of a class without personality 
or individual character. This last class of visual statements not 
only cannot be proof read but, short of faking, cannot be con- 
formed to what the proof reader calls 'copy' and for the reason 
that there is no symbolic copy to read back to, but merely a con- 
crete particular object. Should one of them be inaccurate or 
indistinct it has to be discarded, for it cannot be corrected. The 
probative value of a retouched photograph is singularly slight. 

Visual statements are normally somewhere between the two 
ends of the gamut that have just been described. Some of them are 
purely schematic, and some of them are intended to catch the 
indicia of personality. An illustration in a botany or an anatomy 
can be almost purely schematic, for the thing it is intended to 
symbolize is not any particular instance of the shape of a concrete 
leaf or muscle, but a broad general class of shapes. However, 
when it comes to such things as the illustrations in a history of 
painting or sculpture what is desired is a visual statement of the 
characteristics or qualities which differentiate each work of art 
from every other work of art. These are not generalities but the 
most concrete and precise of particularities. 

Before the days of photography and photographic process, it 
was impossible to hope for any such visual statement as that made 
by a photograph, and the most that could be asked for was a first- 
hand statement by a competent and honest observer and recorder. 

The competent and honest observer and recorder, however, 
had his very distinct limitations. In the first place, he could only 
draw a selected and very small part of the things he did observe. 
More than that, courageous and sharp-sighted as he might be, he 
had learned to see in a particular way and to lay his lines in 
accordance with the requirements of some particular convention 
or system of linear structure, and anything that that way of seeing 
and that convention of drawing were not calculated to catch and 

60 



A RULE OF THE ROAD 

bring out failed to be brought out in Ms statement. For shortness' 
sake I shall frequently refer to such conventions as syntaxes. Thus 
the Germans of the Renaissance had one kind of vision and draw- 
ing and the Italians had another. Furthermore, when it came to 
copying a picture, that is to making a visual statement about a 
visual statement, the copyist felt under no obligation to be faithful 
to either the particular forms or the linear syntax of the earlier 
draughtsman he thought he was copying. Painstakingly and care- 
fully as Diirer might copy a real rabbit or a violet in his own 
syntax, when it came to copying a print by Mantegna he refused 
to follow Mantegna's syntax, and retold the story, as he thought, 
in his own syntax. I doubt if it ever occurred to him that in chang- 
ing the syntax he completely changed both the facts and the story. 
The comparison of the two, the Mantegna and the Diirer, is very 
illuminating about a great many things. 

Another important difference between visual statements and 
collocations of word symbols, is that while there are dictionary 
meanings for each of the word symbols, and while there may be 
dictionary definitions for the names of the things symbolized by 
a complex of lines and spots, there are no dictionary definitions 
for the individual lines and spots themselves. It is much as though 
we had dictionary definitions for sentences and paragraphs but 
not for individual words. Thus while there is very definitely a 
syntax in the putting together, the making, of visual images, once 
they are put together there is no syntax for the reading of their 
meaning. With rare exceptions, we see a picture first as a whole, 
and only after having seen it as a whole do we analyse it into 
its component parts. We can begin this analysis at any place in 
the picture and proceed in any direction, and the final result is 
the same in every case. It is a very different situation from that 
exemplified in our little three-word sentences about Henry and 
James, in which we have to begin with the component parts as 
they are given to us in a time order and only after the sentence 
is finished are able to effect a synthesis of them into a whole. This 
leads me to wonder whether the constantly recurring philosophical 

61 



SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX 

discussion as to which comes first, the parts or the whole, is not 
merely a derivative of the different syntactical situations exempli- 
fied on the one hand by visual statements and on the other by the 
necessary arrangement of word symbols in a time order. Thus it 
may be that the points and lines of geometry are not things at all 
but merely syntactical dodges. 

I have a notion that much of the philosophical theory of the 
past can eventually be traced back to the fact that, whereas it was 
possible after a fashion to describe or define objects by the use of 
arbitrary and exactly repeatable word symbols addressed, medi- 
ately or immediately, to the ear, it was not possible to describe or 
define them by exactly repeatable images addressed to the eye. Of 
course, the ancients could make pictures of particular things, but 
their pictures were of little use as definitions or descriptions 
because they could not be exactly repeated, a thing that it is impos- 
sible to do so long as every copy of a picture has to be copied by 
hand. Pliny's account of the predicament of the Greek botanists is 
a striking example of how this worked out in practice. We have 
seen another very pretty example of it in the history of botanical 
illustration between the years 1480 and 1530. 

A definition or description that cannot be exactly repeated is 
not only of little use but it introduces extraordinary complications 
and distortions. If it had been impossible ever to repeat exactly 
a verbal formula there would have been no law, no science, no 
religion, no philosophy, and only the most rudimentary animal 
technology and it may be doubted that human beings would be 
able to communicate with each other much more effectively than 
so many geese or wild dogs. 

Practically speaking, a definition or description that constantly 
undergoes changes does not help communication but interferes 
with it and results in a confusion greater than that which existed 
before it was attempted. It is to be remembered that the only 
statements the ancients knew which could be exactly repeated as 
often as was practically necessary were composed of word symbols 
which were mere representative members of classes. Under the 

62 



A RULE OF THE ROAD 

circumstances, I believe, it was only natural that the ancients came 
to think that there was some m^gic in words, of such a kind that 
they were real and that the shifting changing phantasmagorias of 
sensuous awarenesses they described were at best composed of 
imitations or faulty exemplifications of the reality that existed in 
the word. Plato's Ideas and Aristotle's forms, essences, and 
definitions, are specimens of this transference of reality fromt he 
object to the exactly repeatable and therefore seemingly permanent 
verbal formula. An essence, in fact, is not part of the object but 
part of its definition. Also, I believe, the well-known notions of sub- 
stance and attributable qualities can be derived from this opera- 
tional dependence upon exactly repeatable verbal descriptions and 
definitions for the very linear order in which words have to be 
used results in a syntactical time order analysis of qualities that 
actually are simultaneous and so intermingled and interrelated that 
no quality can be removed from one of the bundles of qualities we 
call objects without changing both it and all the other qualities. 
After all, a quality is only a quality of a group of other qualities, 
and if you change anyone of the group they all necessarily change. 
Whatever the situation may be from the point of view of a verbalist 
analysis, from the point of view of visual awarenesses of the kind 
that have to be used in an art museum the object is a unity that 
cannot be broken down into separate qualities without becoming 
merely a collection of abstractions that have only conceptual 
existence and no actuality. In a funny way words and their neces- 
sary linear syntactical order forbid us to describe objects and 
compel us to use very poor and inadequate lists of theoretical 
ingredients in the manner exemplified more concretely by the 
ordinary cook book recipes. 

Now, to come back to prints the earliest engravers had no 
systematic system of shading or laying their lines. They covered 
any such portion of the plate as required to be shaded with a 
series of scratchy, scrabbly, lines, laid anyway. All that they asked 
of these lines was that they should give a tone to the spots where 

63 



SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX 

they appeared. This can be seen, for example, in many of the so- 
called niello prints, in the 'fine manner' prints of the Florentine 
school, and in some of the more primitive prints of the German 
school. It may be that these prints represent the goldsmith's tra- 
dition of drawing. However, it was not long before trained 
draughtsmen began to make engravings, and as they did so they 
introduced into engraving their habitual methods of laying lines 
with their pens. Pollaiuolo and Mantegna drew firm carefully 
considered outlines, and shaded by using almost parallel lines 
running tilted from right to left without regard to the direction of 
the outlines. This gave somewhat the effect of flat washes of mono- 
chrome. In Germany the artists, true to their caligraphic habit 
of drawing, shaded with lines that had a tendency to follow the 
shapes, as can be seen in the prints of the Master E. S., Schon- 
gauer, and Diirer. The Italians spent most of their time and 
thought on their outlines, and their shading was primarily a rapid 
way of producing an added sense of three dimensionality. The 
Germans put as much time on the mechanical neatness of their 
shading and its calligraphic slickness as they did on their outlines. 
They also tried to combine with this all sorts of information about 
the local details and textures of the surfaces of the objects they 
represented. Like the Nature of the old physics books, the Ger- 
mans hated what they thought of as a pictorial vacuum, and 
believed that a good honest workman should fill his plate from 
corner to corner. If I may put the matter in philosophical jargon, 
even the greatest of them saw objects located in a space that was 
independent of them and unrelated to their forms, whereas the 
greater Italians saw that space was merely the relation between 
objects. If you see in this latter way, the spaces between objects 
become just as important as the objects themselves, for they are 
actually part of the objects, even possibly their most important 
part. But the Germans never discovered this, and kept right on 
filling their plates with objects deprived of space. One result of 
this was that while the Italians not infrequently achieved a sense of 
volumes through the quality of their merest, baldest outlines, the 

64 




tn0&> amokx&s 

'Daltia non 



vires 



C 



CL 




39. Face from the engraved portrait of Pomponne de Bellelievre by Nanteuil 
(1623-1678). Enlarged. 




40. Modern half-tone of detail from the painting of *Le Mezetin' by Watteau 
(1684-1721). Reduced. 




41. The same detail from the engraving by Audran (1667-1756). About actual size. 



42. Face from the engraving after *L'Homme a Toeuillet' by Gaillard (1834- 

1887). Enlarged. 




43. Head from an engraving by Caylus (1692-1765) after a chalk sketch by Watteau. 




44. Figures from an etching of 'The Agony in the Garden' by Rembrandt 



A RULE OF THE ROAD 

Germans rarely or never achieved any sense of space or three 
dimensionality, much as they piled up contour within contour in 
their system of laying lines. Diirer, as I have shown elsewhere, 
actually worked out a system of perspective that resulted in a 
systematic denial of the homogeneity of space. Much of the 
peculiar psychological quality of his work can be traced directly 
to this. His various figures and architectural settings frequently 
have nothing to do with one another and exist in different spaces. 
Incidentally, the Germans began to superimpose neat tidy 
systems of lines running in different directions and thereby pro- 
duced a shimmer or play of textures that gave a sparkle to their 
prints, much as though they were textiles woven with several kinds 
of threads running through each other in different directions. In 
a way it may be compared to the patterns of the damask table 
cloths of our youths. While this superposition of systems of lines 
was easy for the pen draughtsman and for the engraver, it was not 
practical on the wood-block, for there it infinitely complicated the 
task of the woodcutter called upon to dig out the whites from 
between the pen lines on his blocks. Because of this, for example, 
the linear web of Diirer's engravings is not the same as that to be 
found in his woodcuts. 

Marc Antonio, originally a Bolognese engraver of the primitive 
goldsmith type, wandered to Venice shortly after 1500, and while 
there produced engraved copies or piracies of Diirer's woodcuts of 
the Life of the Virgin,, which are famous in the literature of prints 
for various reasons of no material interest. He also made copies 
of a few of Diirer's engravings. Out of this experience were eventu- 
ally to come several things of great importance. Without discussing 
Marc Antonio's artistic abilities, it suffices to say that he spent 
much of his later life in Rome producing engraved versions of 
designs by such artists as Raphael and Peruzzi, as well as of 
ancient sculpture. The details of his relationship with Raphael are 
vague, indefinite, and unreliable. The earlier copyist engravers who 
had worked after Mantegna's pen drawings had simply copied the 
lines that Mantegna made with his pen. But Raphael's drawings 
p.v.c. 65 G 



SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX 

were not of that type. His outlines were broken, and within these 
there was no close system of shading, but they conveyed an amaz- 
ing sense of three-dimensionality, that is of volumes. Diirer and his 
German predecessors were practically devoid of this sense for 
volumes. Some way had to be devised of conveying this so import- 
ant sense for volumes in the engravings after Raphael's drawings. 
Here Marc Antonio's experience in copying Diirer gave him the 
answer, but one that was far different from anything that Diirer 
himself ever did. Taking elements from Diirer's two different 
linear systems, that for his woodcuts and that for his engravings, 
Marc Antonio devised a kind of shading that represented not the 
play of light across a surface, and not the series of local textures, 
but the bosses and hollows made in a surface by what is under it. 
In a way it corresponds closely enough to the kind of drawing that 
is familiar in the maps of the geodetic surveys. With the curious 
Italian logic of his time he reduced this to a sort of rudimentary 
grammatical or syntactical system. Lucas of Leyden, fascinated 
by this, ceased to be an inspired teller of fairy tales and became a 
great theoretical grammarian of the engraved line. The followers 
of the two men in the south and the north eventually developed 
the idea into a very fuU fledged linear syntax. The phrase that 
Professor Saintsbury used in describing what he called English 
Augustan prose style may be applied to it. It was a most adequate 
instrument for an average purpose. It was fitted for the average 
skill of the average engraver, for it enabled him to produce tidy 
organized linear webs that called for no mental alertness. It could 
be learned as a routine. Marc Antonio's invention of it undoubt- 
edly had much to do with the great esteem in which his work was 
held during the long reign of reproductive line engraving. 

While this syntactical development was taking place, print 
publishing came into being as a specialized, specific trade. Prior 
to this time, so far as the records seem to show, goldsmiths and 
painters had made engravings with their own hands, professional 
engravers had worked independently for their own profit, and 
some of them had copied or pirated the drawings and prints of 

66 



A RULE OF THE ROAD 

other men. The earliest corpus of etched work, that of the Hopfer 
family of Augsburg, consists almost entirely of rapidly made 
copies of other men's work. Etching was the quickest way there 
was of getting out prints. For many years this was undoubtedly 
its principal virtue in the eyes of the trade. But the print publisher, 
unlike the painters and the independent engravers, was a capitalist 
entrepreneur. He hired men to make prints for him, which he 
stocked, and published, and dealt in just as though he were an 
ordinary manufacturer-dealer. He owned the plates and they 
represented a large part of his invested capital. His only reason for 
being in the business was to make money. 

Lafreri in Rome and Cock in Antwerp may be taken as typical 
of the tribe. They determined what their prints should look like, 
just as they determined what they should represent. Lafreri dis- 
covered the horde of travellers who came to Rome and wanted to 
take home with them pictures of what they had seen there. So he 
had prints made which he sold singly, or in sets, or in complete 
collections. Cock in the north, himself an engraver, also realized 
the popularity of Italian paintings and subjects, so he made draw- 
ings of them and had other artists make them for him, and then had 
the drawings engraved in his shop by his employees. He did the 
same thing for the work of the popular northern painters. Pieter 
Brueghel the elder provided him with many drawings of landscapes 
and satirical subjects to be engraved. 

In the course of this commercial development a curious thing 
happened. Functions that had been filled by one man got split 
apart in a specialization of labour. The painter painted. The 
draughtsman for the engraver copied in black and white what the 
painter had painted, or the Roman view, or ancient statue. The 
engraver rendered the drawings of these draughtsmen. The engrav- 
ings in consequence were not only copies of copies but translations 
of translations. Except where the engraver had before him a pen- 
drawing, such as one of Brueghel's, which was at one and the same 
time an original work of art and a detailed set of plans and speci- 
fications for the lines of the engraving which the engraver could 

67 



SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX 

copy as directly and slavishly as some of the early copyists had 
copied the drawings of Mantegna, he the engraver, that is had 
to translate all the various kinds of drawings that came to him into 
some kind of standardized linear system. That is what happens in 
shop work done for an entrepreneur whose name is signed to the 
finished work. The 'house' develops a style and a quality by which 
it is known and which it does not willingly part from after it has 
become known. It is part of its 'good will'. This is one of the 
reasons that etchers and engravers who have been tied to particular 
publishers are so apt to show little artistic development in their 
work and to make so few experimental plates. What their employer 
wants from them is just what the farmer wants from his laying 
hens, a regular production of eggs of the same standardized size, 
colour, and weight. The only way to 'secure this is through the 
adoption of a syntax of the laying of lines for an average purpose. 
What Marc Antonio and Lucas of Leyden had adventuresomely 
started was reduced to a wholesale practice and technique of the 
standardized article. 

Of course this development was not as simple and direct as my 
account of it, for there have always been artists who have thought 
and worked in their own ways, making works of art. However, in 
the vast field of prints for information, for profit, for propaganda, 
for sale to anyone and everyone, I believe my account is sub- 
stantially true. It is important to observe that this development 
took place just in the period when the shift from the woodcut to 
the copper plate began in the illustration of books and my 
account is borne out by the illustrated books and the countless 
sets of views and allegories and beauties and fancy subjects and 
pieties that lumber up the great European collections and the dusty 
shops on such streets as the Rue Bonaparte and the Rue des 
Beaux Arts. The names of the most proficient practitioners appear 
lumped together in the dreariest paragraphs of the conscientious 
historians. What we forget, however, in our boredom with these 
dull things, is that it was exactly they which constituted the back 
bone of the print trade and which gave the world such visual 



A RULE OF THE ROAD 

information as it had of the things represented in them. The great 
influence of Italy on the north, and later that of Paris on the rest 
of Europe, was exerted through reproductive prints which carried 
the news of the new styles. If we would understand those influences 
and the forms they took, we must look not at the Italian and 
Parisian originals but at what for us are the stupid prints which 
the publishers produced and sold in such vast quantities. This is a 
point that is all too often overlooked by art historians. 

Standing out from the dull industrious day labourers in the vine- 
yard there was a little group of virtuosi of the engraver's tool, whose 
names and performances were famous so long as the world had 
to depend on engravings for its information about the shapes of 
things that were not at hand for inspection. As always happens 
when there is a distinction between the creative artist and the per- 
former, as for example in music and on the stage, people lose their 
sense of discrimination. The performer ceases to be a puppet 
moved by the creator and becomes a person in his own right. 
People knew Garrick's Hamlet and not Shakespeare's. The self- 
assertiveness of the performer shows itself in the invention of 
mannerisms and tricks calculated to call attention to himself at 
the cost of the explication of the creator's ideas. Where the creator 
creates characters and situations, the performer exhibits and 
emphasizes himself, and, curiously, he does this even when he 
writes the plays in which he is the star actor. A very great deal of 
the standard history of prints is devoted to prints, both 'original* 
and 'reproductive', which are neither more nor less than the per- 
former's assertions of his own physical personality. Thus in 
engraving there were performers who made great specialties of 
the rendering of glass and shiny metal, of silks and furs, and of 
foliage and whiskers. It is impossible to think that even so great 
an artist as Diirer was not tainted by this sort of virtuosity. The 
virtuoso engravers chose the pictures they were to make or repro- 
duce not for their merits but as vehicles for the exhibition of their 
particular skills. The laying of lines, swelling and diminishing, the 
creation of webs of crossed lines, of lozenges with little flicks and 

69 



SYMBOLISM AND SYNTAX 

dots in their middles, the making of prints in lines that all ran 
parallel or around and around one engraver made a great reputa- 
tion by the way he rendered the fur of a pussy cat, and another 
made a famous head of Christ that contained but one line, which 
beginning at the point of the nose, ran around and around itself 
until it finally got lost in the outer margin, stunts such as these 
became for these exhibitionists not a way of saying something of 
interest or importance but a method of posturing in public. Natur- 
ally the great showmen became the models of the less gifted but 
equally stupid routine performers, for all these trick performances 
contained far more of laborious method than of eyesight or 
draughtsmanship. 

The webs spun by these busy spiders of the exactly repeatable 
pictorial statement were in some respects much like what the geo- 
meters call the 'net of rationality', a geometrical construction that 
catches all the so-called rational points and lines in space but 
completely misses the infinitely more numerous and interesting 
irrational points and lines in space. The effect of these rationalized 
webs on both vision and visual statement was a tyranny, that, 
before it was broken up, had subjected large parts of the world to 
the rule of a blinding and methodically blighting visual common 
sense. What was not according to the book of deportment for the 
makers of exactly repeatable pictorial statements was not only 
"not done', but, worse, it was bad manners. 



70 



IV 

THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

THE SEVENTEENTH AND 
EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 



IN the first half of the seventeenth century five very remarkable 
men made or published prints. Roughly speaking they were 
contemporaries. Between them they had great influence on the 
kinds of prints that were to be made for a long time. For three 
of them print-making was a business, a business to be minded just 
as carefully as any other commercial undertaking. These three were 
Rubens, Callot, and Bosse. Another made prints to please himself, 
apparently paid no attention to commercial considerations, and 
died in an asylum. This man was Hercules Seghers. The fifth man 
was Rembrandt, who went bankrupt years before he died and, 
never being discharged, had thenceforth little interest in money- 
making. Thanks to the later development of photography and 
photographic process, while we remember a good many prints of 
the Seghers-Rembrandt tradition, we have forgotten all but a very 
small part of the prints that came out of the Rubens-Callot-Bosse 
tradition, except as oddities that we sometimes see in old-fashioned 
houses and collections. 

71 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, an ambassador, a knight, an inter- 
nationally famous painter, and especially, a very astute and suc- 
cessful business man, saw the great financial advantage to be 
gained by having engravings made after his paintings and selling 
them in large editions. Some of the prints after his pictures are 
the work of outsiders working for their own accounts and pur- 
poses, but a great many of them were published either by Rubens 
himself or by firms in which he was a partner. There are said to be 
early trial proofs of some of these engravings which are worked 
over in pen and ink to indicate corrections and changes that were 
to be made in them, much as though they were author's galley 
proofs. The handwriting in these pen lines has been recognized 
as that of Rubens himself. The only touched proof of a Rubens 
print that I know of in America is in the Metropolitan Museum. 
It is a counterproof of the first state of an etching of St. Catherine, 
by Rubens himself. Perhaps it is the only print he made with his 
own hands. 

What this means is that Rubens organized a school or group of 
engravers who worked under his immediate supervision and pre- 
sumably in Ms pay. For their translations of his paintings and 
sketches into black and white they devised a linear scheme which 
answered two quite different requirements. Not only was it desir- 
able to construct a linear network that should be the instrument 
of an average Rubensy purpose, but it was just as desirable to 
find a method of incising the copper in such a way that the plates 
would yield very large editions before they began to show appreci- 
able wear. 

Until photography and photographic process took the place 
of the reproductive print made by the older processes, the size of 
the edition that could be pulled from a plate was a matter to 
which almost all print-makers, original as well as reproductive, 
gave much thought. The great discovery that a larger profit could 
be made from the snobbery to which a limited edition appeals is 
comparatively recent, and can be regarded as one of the sequelae 
of the pervasion of photographic process. Seymour Haden was, 

72 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

perhaps, the last of the well-known etchers who was old-fashioned 
enough to regard his plates as bonds from which he might at 
regular intervals take off the coupons he called proofs. To do this 
he adopted the trick, invented in Paris in his youth, of 'steel facing' 
his plates so that he might be able to keep on printing discreet 
editions of his etchings and dry points over periods that in some 
instances lasted for about forty years. Steel facing was not available 
to the print-makers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 
and so they had to give thought to the depth of their lines and their 
distances apart, for shallow lines and lines that were too close 
together wore out in the most disheartening way. 

With these requirements as their basis the Rubens school of 
engravers worked out a linear net that was most admirable from 
the point of view of Rubens himself. It was actually one of the 
most successful instruments of an average purpose that has ever 
been devised. Any sketch, no matter how fleeting its indications, 
and any most elaborately detailed oil painting of the Rubens 
type, could be tossed into the hopper of the engraving shop, and 
out of the other end would come a print that had all the familiar 
trade-marked Rubens look. They all looked alike when they were 
finished. It was through these prints that Rubens's international 
influence was exercised. Two of the greatest events in the history 
of landscapes, whether painted, engraved, or etched, are the en- 
gravings after, first, Brueghel, and, second, Rubens. 

Callot was a professional etcher, not a painter who also etched. 
The distinction is important. It is significant that so few of the 
original prints by men who were not primarily painters are remem- 
bered. Callot was greatly influenced by the fashion for swelling 
lines that had been started in the second half of the sixteenth 
century by the virtuoso engravers. One of the greatest of these 
virtuosi was Goltzius. As we shall see, this swelling and diminish- 
ing of schematically laid lines had its immediate economic aspects 
as well as those of mere fashion. The engravers after Rubens were 
naturally and easily influenced by the full-blown Goltzius type of 
linear work. Etching, however, was much quicker than engraving, 

73 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

but the ordinary etching needle did not lend itself to the creation 
of the swell and diminuendo of the individual lines as did the 
engraver's tool. To achieve this it was necessary for Callot to use a 
specially designed etching point that is called the echope. Whether 
he invented it I do not know, but he was the first to use it brilliantly 
and successfully. When used with care in the laying of lines that 
are systematically and not freely drawn, it enables its user to 
produce a very fair imitation of the swelling engraved line. It is 
often difficult to tell with the unaided eye whether a line in a print 
by Callot is an etched or an engraved line, especially because, as 
he used the old hard etching ground, it was possible for him to 
sink his engraving tool in an etched line before the ground was 
removed from the plate, and so give it its final polish and finish. 
His work was extremely popular, he printed large editions, and 
there were many copies and piracies of his prints, which very early 
became the object of assiduous attention from the collectors. The 
earliest literary account of the foibles of the typical print collector 
is to be found in La Bruyere's Characters., which was first published 
in 1688. The prints cited by La Bruyere are those of Callot. There 
is so much of method in Callot's work that the copyist-forger was 
frequently very successful in his imitations. This is one of the little 
penalties of methodical and schematic work, no matter how bril- 
liant or direct it may appear. 

Bosse was a small but active manufacturer of prints who took 
a great interest in theoretical matters. A friend and pupil of 
Desargues, he wrote important books on architecture, on stereo- 
tomy, and on perspective. He also wrote the first technical treatise 
on engraving and etching. He utilized Callof s tool for the pro- 
duction of etched lines that swelled and diminished, and that for 
their full effect had to be schematically laid. He also told how 
etching could be used for the preliminary work on a plate, after 
which it could be finished with the engraving tool. It was a tech- 
nical trick that saved time and labour, and thus became very 
common among reproductive engravers. In the course of time, in 
one or another of its forms, it became a standard practice. 

74 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

Bosse's book on etching and engraving of 1645 was not only 
the first on its subjects, but for more than a century it remained 
the standard one. It went through a number of editions, and a 
hundred and twenty years after its first publication it was edited 
and brought down to date by Cochin. A comparison of the first 
and last editions is very interesting and suggestive, for much had 
happened between them especially the introduction of the 
modern soft etching ground in place of the old hard one. 

Bosse's ideal was the tidy, regular, systematized, linear struc- 
ture to which I have referred as a net of rationality. Some of the 
sentences in the introduction to his book are so interesting in view 
of the economics of print manufacture that I shall quote them. 
His prose style is as untidy as his prints were precise and regular, 
and so it is impossible to turn them literally into English and at 
the same time make sense of them. In my versions I have tried to 
play fair with both Bosse and my readers. 

In the first place, Bosse clearly distinguishes between pictorial 
invention and composition on the one hand and linear quality 
and structure on the other hand. Little as he may have suspected 
it he was proceeding along the lines of the old Aristotelian- 
Scholastic distinction between substance and attributable qualities. 
It is a distinction that has only gone out of fashion in print-making 
and appreciation during the present century. Thus he says: 'The 
first among those to whom I have obligation is Simon Frisius, the 
Dutchman, who, in my opinion, should have great glory in this 
art, in as much as he handled the point with great mastery, and 
in his hatchings strongly imitated the neatness and firmness of the 
engraver's tool. ... I speak only of the neatness of his etched 
lines, leaving aside the invention and the composition (dessein) 9 it 
not being my intention to talk of such things.* He then says that 
'Callot greatly perfected this arf, and that c if it had not been that 
his genius carried him to little figures, he would doubtless have 
done in big etchings all that can be done in imitation of the en- 
graver's tool 5 . After this he makes a statement, which throws light 
not only on an aesthetic matter but very distinctly on an economic 

75 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

one. 'For myself, I admit that the greatest difficulty I have met in 
etching is to make hatchings that swing, big, fat, and thin, as 
needed, as the engraver's tool does, and with which the plates may 
be printed for a long time.' It is interesting to notice, in view of this, 
that the present-day commonness of the various editions of his 
book implies that they were printed in large editions, and that the 
last edition, which was printed more than a hundred and twenty 
years after the first one, was still illustrated with impressions from 
many of the plates he made for the first edition. Bosse then makes 
an apology and defence of his attitude: *It is not that I do not 
appreciate work done in etching that has not this neatness . . . 
but all will agree with me that it is the invention, the beautiful 
outlines, and the touches, of those who have worked the other 
way which makes their work appreciated rather than any neatness 
of the way they laid their lines. I believe that those who etched 
the other way would have acquired greater success in their business 
if they had availed themselves of my system of laying lines/ Here 
we have a clear-cut statement of the reasoning of the commercial 
print manufacturer. It would be hard to make a more practical 
definition of a tool for an average purpose, in which accuracy of 
representation of the personal characteristics of things was not as 
important as their reduction to an economically advantageous 
neatness of syntactical statement. 

At the end of his book Bosse devotes several pages to printing 
but with the remark that it is a different business. It is obvious 
from this that in his time printing was not regarded as a thing 
that the engraver or etcher should do himself. We have travelled 
a long way since that time. Then the test of a man's ability as a 
printer was how much alike he could get a long series of impres- 
sions. In Whistler's time it was seriously advanced that the etcher's 
artistry as printer was shown by how many different kinds of 
impressions he could pull from the same plate. That can be regarded 
as the erection of a technical incompetence into an artistic virtue. 

In his discussion of the use of the engraver's tool Bosse gives 
one little detail that is of considerable interest he tells how to 

76 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

remove the burr from the sides of engraved lines. He makes no 
comment upon this, but takes it for granted that it is to be done. 
The reason was twofold. It is not desirable that the impressions 
from a plate in which the lines have been schematically laid should 
be too rich, as that interferes with the brilliance which is one of 
the chief attractions of that kind of linear work. Also, and more 
important still, the deliberate removal of the burr in the beginning, 
instead of waiting for it to wear off in the course of printing the 
edition, meant that a very much larger number of impressions 
could be run off before there was any appreciable difference in 
quality among them. The early masters did not remove the burr 
from their plates, with the result that their early impressions are 
much richer than the somewhat later ones and have quite a dif- 
ferent quality. This is very marked in the engravings by Mantegna 
and by Lucas of Leyden. When either had finished one of his plates 
it contained a good many very shallow lines with a good deal of 
burr. As soon as the burr vanished, his plates became pale and 
ghostlike. They are only to be understood in very early impressions 
of a kind that are extremely difficult to come by. Durer, always 
keen about the economic aspects of his work, seems to have 
produced more evenly printed editions than his contemporaries, 
great as may be the difference between a very early impression 
from one of his plates and a somewhat later one. His rectification 
of an oversight in his engraving of the Prodigal Son is illuminating 
about his practice. He forgot to do part of a tree in the background 
and at the last minute, after the plate had had its burr diminished, 
he put it in, but forgot to work it down, with the result that the 
early impressions of this plate show a very strong burr on some 
of the lines of that tree. It would seem to indicate that he did 
not do his own printing. The impressions of the engravings by 
many of the early masters were at their most brilliant just when the 
burr had worn away and before there was any wear of the lines 
themselves. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when 
people, accustomed to several centuries of brilliant schematic 
well scraped line work, had come to value their contemporary 

77 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

engravings for their brilliance and not for their richness or colour, 
it was these 'silvery' impressions of the older print-makers, printed 
just at the right moment in the wear of the plate, that were most 
sought for and highly valued. It is merely another instance of how 
a later period prizes things for qualities that are different from 
those that gave them their values when they were made, for the 
artists who made the old engravings judged them by how the lines 
looked before the plates showed wear. 

The strong persistence of the ideal of the business-like system- 
atized technique of draughtsmanship and of working the plate in 
such a manner that a large edition could be run off from it before 
it showed any material deterioration, is exhibited in Mr. Hind's 
opinion of 1908 that the greatest of the portrait etchers was not 
Rembrandt but Van Dyck. He says that Van Dyck produced plates 
'which are perhaps the most perfect models of portrait etching in 
existence', and that Rembrandt cannot claim such praise, for 
although his work 'is even more wonderful in its penetrating genius 
than that of Van Dyck', 'it is essentially inimitable and has perhaps 
never succeeded except in the hands of the master himself. Van 
Dyck on the other hand has remained the pattern of the best of 
modern portrait etchers' (by which, as appears elsewhere in his 
book, Mr. Hind meant Legros and William Strang), and his por- 
traits make 'a far more direct and intimate appeal' than those of 
Rembrandt. It is interesting to notice that in his History of Engrav- 
ing and Etching, from which I have quoted with his kind per- 
mission, Mr. Hind did not mention that supreme example of por- 
traiture on the copper, Rembrandt's 'Young Haaring', a print as 
far removed from the tradesman's ideals of longevity and easy 
brilliance as can be imagined. 

Mr. Hind calls attention to the fact that when Van Dyck 
started his set of portrait etchings, which is known as his Icono- 
graphy., it was a failure because the public demanded 'more finished 
work', and that the scheme was finally carried out by a long series 
of engravings of the Rubens school after sketches which Van Dyck 
supplied for the purpose. Of these perfunctory and stupid prints 

78 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

Mr. Hind says that it was 'the elaborated engravings of the Icono- 
graphy that formed the pre-eminent factor in fixing a standard 
for future engravers of portrait'. Mr. Hind was right, but the fact 
to which he calls attention is a very sorry and most important 
commentary upon many things. 

Seghers, a little known artist, whose prints are of the greatest 
rarity, made many experimental plates, in which he indicated 
many of the ways that were to be travelled by etchers in the future. 
He not only sometimes printed his plates in coloured ink on 
coloured sheets of paper, but he made many landscapes that had a 
great influence on Rembrandt and a few of his contemporaries in 
the Dutch school. One of his plates was actually reworked by 
Rembrandt, who inserted large figures in a landscape, and others 
of them were probably the first original etchings of the low-lying 
Dutch countryside. Several of them were reworked and republished 
by Everdingen. 

Rembrandt, the patron saint of non-commercial etchers, was a 
prolific etcher as well as a painter, but in both media he worked as 
differently from Rubens and Callot and Bosse as possible. The 
chronological sequence of his prints shows that in his development 
he strove to achieve expressiveness and neither systematization of 
his linear structure nor long life for Ms plates. Following Seghers 
in free experimentation, Rembrandt used etching, engraving, dry 
point, and what is called sulphur tint, on his plates. The sulphur 
tint was a way of producing extremely delicate tints that wore out 
with astonishing speed. The dry point burr also wore out very fast. 
Although many of his plates are in practically pure etching, he 
frequently used combinations of the media I have mentioned. 
It is doubtful whether any of his predecessors had been so 'impure 9 
a worker. Diirer, on occasion, used a touch of dry point in his 
engraving, as in the 'Promenade*, but was usually careful to cut 
away the burr before printing. He made only three pure dry points 
and five etchings. Lucas of Leyden, in 1520, mixed etching with 
engraving on the same plates, but seemingly did very few plates 
that way. I know of no print carried through in engraving by 

79 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

Rembrandt, but he frequently used the engraver's tool to point 
up his etchings, and sometimes, as in the 'Diana Bathing' and the 
*Dr. Bonus', used it for important passages while the rest of the 
plate was etched. A number of his later plates were carried through 
in practically pure dry point. He used touches of sulphur tint in 
some of his finest portraits. It is doubtful if any other print- 
maker of comparable rank ever made such drastic changes in the 
composition of his plates as Rembrandt did in his great dry points 
of the 'Large Three Crosses' and the 'Christ Presented to the 
People'. The only meaning of this can be that he did not care 
about the limitation which such practices put on the size of his 
editions. Moreover he had at no time a standardized scheme for 
the laying of his lines. His shading was done for light and shade 
and especially for colour, and not for surface bosses and hollows. 
All his drawing was highly autographic and idiosyncratic. At the 
end of his career as etcher, it can be said, he had no technique; 
that he knew only particular occasions and needs and invented 
ways of meeting them as they arose. For this reason during his 
own life he had little influence outside the small group around 
him. The men who exert what is called influence in a quasi-com- 
mercial occupation such as print-making are those who provide 
plainly stated and ready made recipes for the use of others. 

In Rembrandt's own time and through the eighteenth century 
his greater masterpieces were not according to the doctrines of 
the dominant Rubens-Caflot-Bosse tradition. It is interesting to 
observe how such an authority as Bartsch at the end of the 
eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries was 
bothered by the greatest of Rembrandt's prints, just as he was by 
those of Mantegna, who, he said, had great genius but was a bad 
engraver. Rembrandt had to wait until the high tide of romanticism 
in the nineteenth century before his most remarkable accomplish- 
ments were recognized. Until past the middle of the nineteenth 
century all the world credited him with many etchings which 
obviously he could never have made. His influence, when it finally 
arrived, was among a group of etchers none of whom had his 

80 










45. Portion of a mezzotint by Lucas (1802-1 881) after Constable. Enlarged. 




46. Figure from the aquatint l Por que fue sensible', from Goya's Caprichos 

of 1803. Enlarged. 




47. 'The Ecchoing Green', from Slakes' Songs of 
Innocence (1789). About actual size. 




48. Portion of Daumier's relief print 'Empoignez les tons', from Le Magasin 
Charivarique J 1834. About actual size. 






49. Three impressions of a wood-engraving from 

Bewick's Land Birds (1797). (a) a proof on China 

paper ; (b) from the textless edition of 1800 ; (c) from 

the edition of 1 832, on better paper. Enlarged. 




\ v 



v \' & 



^^^^^^.-mw^y/m 

.* ^^W'^m^ 

^- -^m^ fe 

;//,'.--. .' . ' fe*r-' <# 



$?////&: 




50. Portion of Nesbit's wood-engraving of Rinaldo and Armida, 1822, on 
China paper. Enlarged. 




51. The same portion of the same engraving by Nesbit, on good book paper. 

Enlarged. 





~( " 



52. Two 'facsimile engravings^ of drav/ings on 

the block, from Puckle*s Club^ 1817, one on China 

paper, the other on good book paper. About 

actual size. 





53. Two wood engravings from Thornton's Eclogues of 
Vergil* 1 822. One by Blake, the other anonymous* About 

actual size. 




54. Portion of Harvey's wood engraving of the 'Death of Lucius Quintus 
Dentatus\ Shortly before 1820. Enlarged. 




[Statue of Niobc.] 



55. The classical statue of Niobe and her Daughter, as engraved on wood from the 
Penny Magazine in 1833. Reduced. 




56. Portion of a proof of a wood engraving of a drawing on the block by 
Daumier, for Le Monde Illustre, in the 1860's. Enlarged. 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

ability to draw or to compose, and none of whom had any imagin- 
ation or human sympathies. The fact that he often thought out his 
technical procedure instead of following a mere recipe, was seized 
upon as justification for a great deal of technical incompetence 
that carried with it few compensating qualities. Actually, the so- 
called Revival of Etching that took place in the mid-nineteenth 
century was merely a revolt from the extreme technical capacity 
of the descendants of the Rubens-Callot-Bosse reproductive 
tradition in favour of a greater freedom of handling. But it was 
not a revival of the art and craft of etching, which so far from 
having disappeared had actually reached a state of amazing tech- 
nical control over the laying of the lines, the biting, and the print- 
ing of the plate. Thus Rembrandt, who was the most highly 
disciplined and trained of workers, became the patron saint of a 
group of hasty sketchers who set up sketchiness as the criterion of 
what they liked to call 'the true function* of etching. It is to be 
doubted whether any other etcher, no matter of what school or 
time, has ever produced plates which required such careful tech- 
nical forethought and planning as, for example, Rembrandf s 
'Presentation in the Temple in the Dark Manner' or his portrait 
of the Young Haaring. 

I shall comment upon the work of only a very few of the horde 
of later engravers who, in different countries, achieved reputation 
by following and developing the several variant recipes for 
standardization of linear work. A time sequence of the works of 
the French portrait engravers of the seventeenth century brings 
out with great clarity this search for system. At the beginning we 
find such an artist as Mellan using a system of shading by parallel 
lines with little and sometimes no cross-hatching. Later, Nanteuil, 
a great virtuoso of the engraver's tool, and a quite perfect repre- 
sentative of the intellectual attitude of the reign of Louis XIV, 
developed an elaborate system of flicks and cross lines, in which 
can be clearly seen the germs of that final degradation which, in 
the nineteenth century, took its name from the bank-note portraits 
from which, all personality of both sitter and engraver had van- 
p.v.c. 81 H 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

isfaed. His need for system was closely related to the fact that 
much of the work on his plates was done by assistants. NanteuiPs 
discipline sat so hard upon him that there is no discernible dif- 
ference between the portraits he did after his own drawings and 
those he made after portraits by other men. What came through 
into the print in either case was only what could be caught and 
held by his deliberately contrived net of rationality, which was 
invented for the purpose of portraying the masks that did duty 
for the faces of the men in high places under the King. 

Audran, at the end of the century, had a direct influence on the 
system. He was perhaps the outstanding member of the group of 
engravers who reproduced the tapestries and other decorations of 
the palace at Versailles. The plates were so big and there were so 
many of them that speed was of the essence, and the liberal use of 
etching in them provided the only way of achieving it. There was 
little or no retouching or polishing up. 

After Watteau's death in 1721, his wealthy friend Jean de Jul- 
lienne embarked upon a great plan to immortalize his memory by 
subventioning and publishing the two long series of engravings after 
Ms work that are known by the catch titles of the 'Big Watteau' 
and the 'Little Watteau*. The big one contained reproductions of 
Watteau's paintings, the little one reproductions of his drawings. 
They were originally issued as sets, the big one being limited to 
one hundred copies of 'first proofs'. No one had previously under- 
taken to present to the world at one time a corpus of prints 
representing as many as possible of the paintings and drawings 
of an artist. The character of Watteau's works was the antithesis 
of that of the great machines that decorated Versailles. It was 
desired to represent this character as closely as possible in the 
prints, and not to have it boiled down to the stiff consistency of a 
highly systematized and rigid linear texture. For this purpose 
Jullienne called to his aid the younger Audran and, especially, 
Tardieu and Boucher. They used etching and engraving, plain 
and mixed, to achieve their ends. It was a highly novel under- 
taking. Out of it there came a series of prints that are remarkable 

82 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

for their lightness, their blond sparkle, and their wit. It Is doubtful 
if the general character of an artist's work had ever before been 
more boldly, more summarily, or more charmingly, translated 
into another medium. The technical means by which this was 
achieved is perhaps most easily to be observed in the plates 
reproducing the chalk and sanguine heads and figures which 
Watteau made as studies for his paintings. The media used in these 
studies were crumbly and not smooth and slick like the traditional 
pen and wash drawings which went to the ordinary engravers. 
More than that they were deft and light handed as few drawings 
that have ever been made. The way in which the feeling for these 
qualities was preserved or indicated in the prints after the draw- 
ings is one of the major triumphs of reproductive engraving, but, 
having been made without any apparent systematization or diffi- 
culty, it has rarely been recognized for what it actually is. 

Shortly after the Jullienne publications were finished several 
technical innovations were made by the reproductive print-makers 
in their desire more closely to approach the character of original 
drawings. I have no doubt that the French fashion for framed 
drawings, which came in with the Regency style in interior decor- 
ation, had much to do with it. Aquatinting was developed to 
imitate wash drawings, roulettes were introduced with which to 
make crumbly lines like those of chalk, stipple was developed to 
make imitations of drawings lightly washed with colour, soft 
ground was invented to imitate the quality and texture of pencil 
drawings. Any and many of these processes were used on the same 
plates, and many prints were made in colour. The colour prints 
after the water-colours and gouaches of such an artist as Hubert 
Robert, in spite of all our modern improvements, still hold their 
charm and interest. Some of the small portraits in colour, such as 
one of Mme Bertin, are marvels of delicacy and brilliance. The 
engravers began to put forth what were called 'facsimiles* instead 
of translations. 

While these things were happening there also grew up in 
France a fashion for very small and finely worked portraits, and s 

83 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

under the lead of such engravers as the younger Drevet and 
Ficquet, incredibly minute work was done, sometimes in pure 
engraving, sometimes in an indissoluble mixture of many tech- 
niques. In many of these prints the lines and dots are too small to 
be separately studied by the unaided human eye. One of the prices 
paid for this minuteness of scale was that the so finely reticulated 
surfaces wore out very fast. 

At the end of the century someone invented the physionotrace 
a contraption with which it was possible for an itinerant por- 
traitist to make quick and easy tracings of profiles and transfer 
them to the copper in small size. Another device much used at this 
time was the camera obscura, quickly followed by the camera 
lucida, both of which came into use as aids to the unskilled in 
taking off the profiles of hills, valleys and buildings. Probably the 
most triumphantly successful use of the camera obscura in the 
making of prints is to be seen in the first states of Girtin's Views of 
Paris. Curiously, but quite logically, you have to be a much more 
accomplished draughtsman to make a good lively drawing with 
the aid of a camera of any kind than without it. 

The attempts to make printed pictures with tints had begun 
early in the sixteenth century, as can be seen in a few prints by 
such artists as Marc Antonio and Daniel Hopfer. But these 
attempts were sporadic and had little consequence until the middle 
of the seventeenth century, when the first mezzotints were made. 
This method had a few followers in Holland and Germany. It 
was never popular in France, possibly because the typical French 
palette was high in key. But in England, where the palette was 
lower, mezzotinting became the standard British way of reproduc- 
ing the portraits and fancy subjects of the day. Great skill was 
devoted to its practice and refinement, but it had a comparatively 
short life, and by the middle of the nineteenth century it had be- 
come antiquated. Curiously it was never used by.a great artist as a 
medium for original work. Although Turner did all the work on a 
few of the plates for his Liber Studiorum, it is practically impossible 
to see any material difference between them and the plates in the 

84 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

same set that were done by the professional mezzotinters. The last 
brilliant flare-up of the mezzotint may be seen in the small prints 
that Constable, in the 1820's and 1830's, paid Lucas to make after 
small rough sketches which he furnished for the purpose. Con- 
stable corrected the proofs of the many states, and in so doing 
introduced so many and such great changes that it is fair to say 
that the impressions should be called original prints and not 
reproductive prints. There can be few documents of greater interest 
to anyone who desires to watch the artist's mind at work, than a 
well-selected series of the trial proofs of a number of these Lucas- 
Constable prints. 

The trouble with all these ways of working on the copper was 
that copper is a very soft metal, and even under the hands of the 
most experienced and skilful of printers wears out with extravagant 
speed. This was especially true of the processes in which the sur- 
face of the plate was broken up very finely, as was necessary for 
the making of tints and tones. Books illustrated in these ways 
could only be printed in comparatively small and expensive 
editions which could not reach the general public. In many in- 
stances, such as that of the Microcosm of London^ the letter press of 
the entire edition was printed at one time, and the plates were 
reworked and printed off from time to time as the book sold, so 
that the illustrations sometimes bear watermarks of many years 
later date than that which appears on the title pages. It would seem 
that most of the copies of Blake's Songs of Innocence., the pages of 
which were painted up by hand, were only made after orders had 
been received for them. It is to be remembered that the illustrations 
which have become part of the visual heritage of the general public 
those in such books, for example, as Diirer's Apocalypse, the 
Florentine Epistole e Evangelii, and, in England, Alice in Wonder- 
land -have always been printed from relief blocks which could be 
locked up with type in the printer's formes and run off in repeated 
and enormous editions. 

A few technical experiments, for they cannot be called more 
than that, were made in Holland in the seventeenth century and 

85 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

in England in the middle of the eighteenth century, towards some 
method of producing relief blocks that would yield prints with 
adequate detail and tonality and at the same time produce large 
editions. But, practically, they came to nothing. Everywhere, how- 
ever, the old techniques for making relief blocks on wood or soft 
metal had survived, principally for use as decorations for popular 
chap-books, song sheets, trade cards, and advertisements. The 
only large-scale original woodcuts of any artistic quality I recall 
in the eighteenth century were the two lone folio size woodcuts 
that Hogarth designed. Looking at them today we can see their 
power and colourful effectiveness, but their contemporaries had 
little use for them and Hogarth never repeated the experiment. 
They inspired no more interest or emulation than had the few and 
remarkably handsome woodcuts after Rubens in the first half of 
the seventeenth century. 

In England the relief techniques survived in the shops where 
they made trade cards, coats of arms, emblems, bill heads, headings 
for ballads, and coarse-textured pictures for penny children's books. 
It was in one of these shops that Bewick served Ms apprenticeship 
and later was a partner. It is impossible to say when or where the 
discovery was made that the engraving tool could be used on a 
wooden block the surface of which ran at right angles to the grain 
of the wood instead of parallel with it. The method seems to have 
been in use in the shop in which Bewick worked. It remained for 
him to discover that it made possible the production from wood- 
blocks of lines that for practical purposes were as fine and as 
closely laid as those that were customarily laid on copper in any 
of the ordinary commercial processes of engraving and etching. 
More than that it made possible the production of tints, of black 
lines on white grounds, and of white lines on either tints or black 
grounds. The wood-blocks were capable of yielding very large 
editions. Nothing of this kind had been known before. Bewick 
made a number of publications which had but little effect on the 
public, but finally in 1797 he put forth the first volume of a popular 
ornithology, which he both wrote and illustrated, and that con- 

86 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

tained a great many anecdotal tail pieces which immediately 
captured the public attention by their salty, rural sentimentality. 
Bewick's British Birds may be said to have wagged their way into 
fame with their tail-pieces. The story of the development of this 
technique under the hands of Bewick and others constitutes a very 
important part of the story of prints during the nineteenth century. 
It brought the wood-block back into books, and gave the greater 
public for the first time copious illustration for its texts. 

Almost simultaneously with Bewick's publication of the British 
Birds, there appeared the Songs of Innocence, written and illus- 
trated by William Blake, and the Caprichos of Francisco Goya. 
The Songs of Innocence were printed from relief etchings on copper. 
The Caprichos were the first set of original and powerful works of 
art to be made in aquatint. Disregarding the artistic qualities of 
these two polarly different masterpieces of imaginative picture- 
making, the importance of their techniques did not emerge until 
long afterwards, and then in connection with processes of photo- 
mechanical reproduction of which no one in their time had ever 
dreamed. During the same years in which these three books or 
sets of pictures were being made, Aloys Senefelder, in Bavaria, 
was working out his discovery of a totally new graphic process, 
using completely novel materials and methods, and producing a 
kind of print that was absolutely unprecedented. Lithography is 
the only great historic graphic process of which we know the name 
of the inventor. What is even more remarkable is that he worked 
out most of the technical capabilities of the medium even as we 
have it today. Here at last was a graphic process in which the 
only person who had to have a technical training in process was 
the printer for literally anyone who could make marks with 
either a pen or a pencil could, with the services of the printer, 
make a lithograph. Granted the ability to draw it was no longer 
necessary for anyone to study the handling of a highly artificial 
linear or other technique in order to make a printing surface. It 
was not necessary for the draughtsman who made the lithograph 
ever to have been in a lithographic establishment, ever to have 

87 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

seen a lithographic printing press, or even to have seen one of the 
stones from which the prints were pulled, for he could draw at 
choice directly on the stone or on paper, with a pencil, a pen, a 
crayon, or a brush, provided only that the pigment that came from 
it was greasy. I have myself, in a demonstration, made a print 
from a drawing that I made on a stone with a lipstick borrowed 
from a lady in the audience. Once his drawing was made, all the 
artist had to do was to hand it to the printer, who did the rest. 
But all this only came out in the nineteenth century. 

Senefelder's discovery did two very remarkable things. It freed 
the original artist or draughtsman from the tyranny of the repro- 
ductive engraver's nets of rationality, and it enabled the public 
for the first time in many generations to get direct first hand 
exactly repeatable pictorial statements about things seen and 
imagined that could be printed in practically unlimited editions. 
The reign of second-hand visual information was drawing to its 
close. 

Only five years after Senefelder made his discovery Wedg- 
wood got a print by the action of light on a piece of chemically 
sensitized paper. Never before in all the history of the techniques 
of the repeatable picture had so many things of such vital import- 
ance been worked out in so short a time. 

As we look back over the book illustration and the informa- 
tional prints of the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, it 
becomes apparent that with very few exceptions they were pictures 
which were at one and two removes from the visual statements 
made by their titular makers. This is but another way of saying 
that the printing surfaces from which the illustrations and prints 
were struck off were not made by the draughtsmen or illustrators 
but by copyists of their drawings. In many instances, such as the 
reproductions of paintings and statues, the objects reproduced 
were copied by some draughtsman, and his drawing was then 
copied by the engraver, who did not work directly from the 
original work of art. The situation had implicit in it all the diffi- 
culties of which Pliny talked in his account of the Greek botanists. 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

We are apt to forget how long into the nineteenth century this 
situation persisted. Thus, for example, Walter Crane was sent to 
study drawing in an engraver's shop so that he would be able to 
make drawings that the engravers could understand and translate 
into their lines with the least difficulty. 

The most that anyone looking at one of these engravings could 
hope for was that the broad general scheme of the composition 
was indicated in a generally adequate way, and that the icono- 
graphic detail was more or less truthful. The print never conveyed 
any information about the surface of the original or the manner 
in which it was worked. I may perhaps make my point in another 
way if there were several paintings of the same general com- 
position and incident, and there were engravings available of each 
of these paintings, no study of the prints could possibly determine 
which of them represented the original and which the copies or 
adaptations. 

The well-known statue of the Laocoon was excavated early 
in the sixteenth century. It was engraved, etched, and cut on wood, 
at frequent intervals by different men, some of whom had seen 
the original, some of whom worked from drawings specially made 
for the purpose, and some by men who worked at first or second 
hand from prints that had previously been made. A group of these 
prints is here reproduced in chronological order from the 1520*s 
to the 1890's, either enlarged or reduced so that the head of 
Laocoon is the same size in each. Each engraver, of course, 
phrased such information as he conveyed about it in terms of the 
net of rationality of his style of engraving. There is such a dis- 
parity between the visual statements they made that only by an 
effort of historical imagination is it possible to realize that all the 
so dissimilar pictures were supposed to tell the truth about the 
one identical thing. At best there is a vague family resemblance 
between them. Had they represented butterflies instead of a known 
single statue, one would have said that they represented different 
families of the genus Laocoonidae, A comparison of them immedi- 
ately raises Pilate's question. It is easy to see that here we have 

89 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

posed as a practical matter one of the most difficult and abstruse 
problems known to the epistemologists. 

When we think that it was on engravings of this kind that the 
comparison and discussion of the qualities and relative merits of 
works of art was based, it becomes easy to understand why so 
little of the art criticism and discussion of the past has any value 
for us of today, except in so far as it throws light on the thought 
of its times, and why the subjects about which the critics and 
theorists talked, the qualities they looked for and found or did not 
find in works of art, are so amusing and puzzling to us of today. 
The predicament was not peculiar to works of art, for it was 
inherent in every sort of visual information about everything in the 
world. 

Thus whenever we read a book, especially about art, archaeo- 
logy, or aesthetic theory, written prior to about the beginning of 
the first world war, it is well to ask ourselves to what extent the 
writer had both a dependable memory and a first hand acquaint- 
ance with the objects he referred to, to what extent he knew them 
through reproductions, and what sort of reproductions he de- 
pended on. Perhaps the most pregnant remark in Bosanquet's 
standard History of Aesthetic, is hidden in a short footnote which 
points out that when Lessing wrote about the Laocoon and expres- 
sion in art he had never seen the original and probably depended 
for his visual knowledge of it upon engravings. It would have been 
difficult for Bosanquet, whose book was published in 1892 at a 
time when photography and the photo-mechanical processes were 
still in their infancy, to be aware of what he had done in his casual 
footnote, but when he had fired that one shot he had utterly 
wrecked most of the biggest tanks in the armies of eighteenth- and 
nineteenth-century connoisseurship and aesthetics. 

There is an old and well-known French proverb and pun 
Que tfest meilleur d'&tre raisonnable que d* avoir raison which can 
only be translated by forgetting about the pun and saying that it 
is better to be reasonable than right. 

When it came to things and objects about which they had no 

90 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

immediate first-hand acquaintance and for information about 
which they had to rely on words and the available printed pictures 
e.g. Goethe showing his engravings to Eckermann the people 
of the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth century could only 
be reasonable, for it was utterly impossible for them to be right 
They had not the means available to think in particularities, which 
are always irrational, and they had to think in generalities. Thus 
it came about that they thought their generalities were true, and 
that when observations did not agree with the generalities it was 
the observations that were wrong. To a very considerable extent 
they were still in the situation and the frame of mind that had 
caused the Greeks to think as they did about some of the basic 
problems in philosophy. Thus just as the ancient Greeks developed 
the Platonic doctrine of Ideas and Aristotle's essences, so the 
eighteenth century developed the ideas of the Truth of Science 
and of the Laws of Nature. It did this very largely because it was 
impossible for it to state exactly the particulars it saw in such a 
way that the statement could be verified. It was impossible for it to 
make and publish a pictorial statement that could not be chal- 
lenged for its accuracy. Also it was impossible for it to make 
another pictorial statement about the same thing that should be 
like one that had already been made. In other words, it was 
impossible to verify any qualitative visual information except by 
going to where the thing was and looking at it, and when this was 
done the information was never accurate. An experiment leading 
up to visual recognitions of identity could be exactly repeated, but 
it might just as well not have been, for there was no way of stating 
the result of either experiment in such a way that the reports were 
either exact or exactly alike. All the eighteenth century could do 
with the pictorial means available to it was to take a series of visual 
statements and draw a sort of statistical average of what they 
contained. But no statistical average has ever existed in nature 
as a concrete fact. The moment we begin to think in terms of 
averages we confess that we have lost contact with the concrete 
things from which the average is calculated. 

91 



THE TYRANNY OF THE RULE 

Today we talk very little about either the 'Laws of Nature' or 
the Truth of Science*, and, if we know what we are doing, we 
hold them in no very great respect, for we know that it is our 
business to challenge them, and that if we can find even a single 
instance in which a so-called law of nature does not work, that 
law will have to be recast, and that it is we who shall have to recast 
it. It is rather comic to think of a mere human being either making 
or recasting so august a thing as a law of nature, but that is just 
what he does. This is a very recent notion, and it has come about 
very largely through our experience with visual information and 
statements. An example is provided by the photographs of an 
eclipse that were taken in 1919 in Brazil and the Gulf of Guinea, 
which verified Professor Einstein's hypothesis about the action of 
gravitation on light. No man until very modern times could have 
produced a picture that would have been accepted as evidence that 
light was subject to gravitation. Similarly the photographs taken 
in the Cavendish Laboratory of vapour condensations in cloud 
chambers were accepted as evidence that the atom, instead of 
being simple, was exceedingly complex. Between them these two 
sets of photographs called for the complete recasting of what for 
several hundred years had been regarded as Laws of Nature, and 
involved such a radical overturn of basic notions as had probably 
never before happened in the history of thinking man. 



92 



V 

THE TYRANNY BROKEN 
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 



WITH the nineteenth century we come to a period In 
which the printed picture may be said to have come 
of age. Not only did it use all the older processes 
but it invented more new ones than had been known 
in all previous history. I imagine that the number of printed pic- 
tures produced between 1800 and 1901 was probably considerably 
greater than the total number of printed pictures that had been pro- 
duced before 1801. They were made for all classes of society and 
for every conceivable purpose. By the end of the century the exactly 
repeatable pictorial statement had become a commonplace in 
books, in periodicals, and in the daily newspapers. It was spread on 
exterior walls for advertising and propaganda, and on interior ones 
for decoration. It had become an Absolute necessity in manufacture 
and engineering of every variety. The most important single 
development in the century was the discovery and exploitation of 
photography and photographic process. First it eliminated the 
draughtsman, and then it eliminated the engraver from the making 
of exactly repeatable pictorial statements, and after that it went on 

93 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

to develop ways of repeating such statements in unlimited quanti- 
ties. Such statements were no longer confined to the life of a single 
printing surface. 

As the community became engulfed in printed pictures, it 
looked to them for most of its visual information. Even museum 
experts who have the original works of art at hand are apt to make 
their comparisons by juxtaposing photographic reproductions 
rather than by placing the originals side by side. As people became 
habituated to absorbing their visual information from photo- 
graphic pictures printed in printers' ink, it was not long before 
this kind of impersonal visual record had a most marked effect on 
what the community thought it saw with its own eyes. It began to 
see photographically, it stopped talking about photographic dis- 
tortion, and finally it adopted the photographic image as the norm 
of truthfulness in representation. A faith was put in the photo- 
graph that had never been and could not be put in the older hand- 
made pictures. There have been many revolutions in thought and 
philosophy, in science and religion, but I believe that never in the 
history of men has there been a more complete revolution than 
that which has taken place since the middle of the nineteenth 
century in seeing and visual recording. Photographs give us visual 
evidence about things that no man has ever seen or ever will see 
directly. A photograph is today accepted as proof of the existence 
of things and shapes that never would have been believed on the 
evidence of a hand-made picture. The nineteenth century began 
by believing that what was reasonable was true and it wound up 
by believing that what it saw a photograph of was true from the 
finish of a horse race to the nebulae in the sky. The photograph 
has been accepted as showing that impossible desideratum of the 
historian me es eigentlich gewesen how it actually was. 

At the end of the eighteenth century there were several remark- 
able innovations in the graphic techniques and those that were 
utilized to make their materials. Bewick developed the method of 
using engraving tools on the end of the wood. Senefelder dis- 
covered lithography. Blake made relief etchings. Early in the nine- 

94 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

teenth century Stanhope, Clymer, Koenig, and others introduced 
new kinds of type presses, which for strength surpassed anything 
that had previously been known. Koenig's machine not only was 
operated by power instead of human muscle, but its mechanical 
design required a complete change in the methods of inking the 
printing surfaces, which in turn necessitated an abandonment of 
the ancient practice of lowering the faces of the blocks and the 
substitution for it of the system of overlays. Photography, although 
the first tentative steps towards it were taken in the eighteenth 
century, did not play any important role until the middle of the 
century, after which it brought about a catastrophic revolution, 
the extent of which is not even today fully recognized. 

For a long time the traditional graphic techniques of the copper 
continued to be used. They held their heads bravely against the 
newer processes until about the middle of the century, when their 
inability to compete against the younger methods began to tell 
against them. For a while, after that, they maintained their exist- 
ence through the snobbery of a tradition of the best, but long 
before the end of the century they had definitely entered upon 
decline towards the atrophy which has ultimately overtaken thorn. 
Today the old style line engraving, mezzotint, and reproductive 
etching, have for all practical purposes ceased to exist. The various 
forms of etching lead a precarious existence among artists who 
happen to like them as media for the exhibition of their skill and 
deftness in hallowed techniques, and there are still collectors who 
take an interest in the current production of minor works of art in 
antiquated and therefore highly respectable techniques. But, as a 
medium that still has work to do in the world, etching, aside from 
its utilization in the photographic processes, is over with. Today 
it has no more sockl or economic importance than has the ability 
to drive a four in hand in front of a coach. Wood-engraving and 
woodcutting are in much the same straits as etching and engraving. 
All have become precious ^accomplishments of which their prac- 
titioners are vain much like the acquisition of a good French 
accent by one who has nothing to say in any language. 

95 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

In thinking about all this it is worth while to reflect upon the 
fact that with a very few remarkable exceptions the greater artistic 
single sheet prints since the end of the first quarter of the sixteenth 
century have been made in techniques which at the time were 
currently and familiarly used for utilitarian purposes and especially 
for the illustration of books. 

If we stop at eighteen hundred and look back at the prints that 
had been made up to that time, one of the outstanding character- 
istics of the movement represented in them seems to have been a 
gradual withdrawal from print making by the more important 
artists. In the fourteen-hundreds we find such masters as Pollaiuolo 
and Mantegna, Schongauer and the young Diirer, making prints 
with their own hands. In the fifteen-hundreds the list of important 
painters who made prints with their own hands is very large the 
mature Diirer, Holbein, Altdorfer, Cranach, Lucas of Leyden, 
Titian, Parmigiano, Baroccio, Spagnoletto, among others. In the 
sixteen-hundreds among the men who made prints with their own 
hands were Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Ruysdael, Claude le Lorrain, 
Guido Reni, Guercino, Carlo Maratti, and many more. Rubens 
made only one or two etchings with his own hands, but he exercised 
immediate supervision over the prints that he published after his 
own paintings, proof reading and correcting them until they met 
with his approval. In the next century, however, the eighteenth, we 
discover that of the major French artists, Watteau made only six or 
seven immaterial sketches on the copper, and Fragonard a handful 
of charming little prints of no particular importance. In England 
Hogarth made many plates after his own pictures, perhaps the 
last instance in which a major artist consistently did reproductive 
work. In Italy the only outstanding painters to etch were Canaletto 
and the elder Tiepolo, and their etched work is small in volume. 
Piranesi was a commercial manufacturer of architectural prints 
conveyors of information and but rarely let his genius interfere 
with Ms business. Only in Spain did a great and powerful painter 
turn to etching and aquatint for the expression of ideas that he had 
not previously given to the world in paint. If Goya had been in 

96 




57. Portion of a wood-engraving of a drawing after Giotto, from Arena Chapel, 
Padua, 1860. About actual size. 




58. Wood-engraving of Holman Hunt's drawing of 'The 

Lady of Shalott% from the pre- Raphael I te Tennyson of 

1857. About actual size. 




59. Reproduction of a collotype from a photograph of 

Hunt's original drawing on the block. 

About actual size. 




60. Portion of a relief print in the Comte process, by Charles Jacque. Presumably 
in the 1870's. About actual size. 



.} 




61. Photograph of a Latticed Window at Lacock Abbey made by Fox Talbot in August, 

1835., About actual size. 




62. Flaxman's relief 'Deliver us from Evil', as engraved by 

Botton through a photograph on the woodblock. About 1861. 

About actual size. 




63. Head from an old drawing, as engraved by Linton through a photograph 
on the woodblock. Enlarged. 




64. Portion of a pen lithograph, by Stothard, from the Polyautographlc 
Album of 1803. Enlarged. 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

France or Italy it is to be doubted whether he would have broken 
away from the accepted code of procedure and himself done 
important work in etching, but, as it was, there was no competent 
school of engravers in Spain to intervene between him and 
his public. He had to do the work with his own hands. Pro- 
vinciality and ignorance sometimes have a great deal to do with 
originality. 

To translate these facts into other terms, the world during the 
eighteenth century had ceased to receive first hand exactly repeat- 
able pictorial statements or communications from its most import- 
ant artists. What it got were second- and third-hand statements of 
hearsay evidence. The same thing was true of the illustrations in 
its books. 

Thanks to the introduction of economies and notions of 
business efficiency in the engravers* shops there had become 
universal the practice of splitting up among various hands the 
different steps in the making of exactly repeatable pictorial state- 
ments. At the end of the chain stood the original draughtsman or 
painter. Then came the draughtsman for the engraver. Frequently 
at this point came a specialist who made the preliminary etching 
on the plate. And finally came the engraver himself, who in many 
instances had never seen the original of which he was supposed to 
make a reproduction, and who rarely hesitated to correct what he 
considered the poor drawing or the lack of elegance in the copy 
that lay before him. In the addenda at the end of the 1861 edition 
of Jackson and Chatto's History of Wood-engraving there is a 
defence of this latter procedure. RossettFs wails of anguish over 
the way that the DaMel engraving shop corrected his drawings for 
Tennyson are famous among people who are interested in Vic- 
torian English poetry. 

This subdivision of labour, although, as we have seen, it began 
in the sixteenth century, was perhaps carried further in the 
peculiarly nineteenth century medium of wood-engraving than in 
any other. At the risk of mixing up my chronological account I 
shall deal for a moment with something that did not come about 
p.v.c. 97 I 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

IE its fully developed state until the beginning of the second half 
of the nineteenth century. 

In wood-engraving it became the standard practice to have a 
draughtsman make a drawing of a painting or whatever it was of 
which a picture was wanted. Then this drawing was redrawn on 
the engraver's block by a specialist draughtsman who was sup- 
posed to know how a drawing should be made for an engraver 
even though in many instances this secondary draughtsman had 
never seen the original. Only then did the engraver begin his work. 
I recall one instance in which the final engraving was done by at 
least four different engravers, each according to his speciality of 
landscapes, figures, architecture, skies, etc. I have no doubt that 
there were many more instances of this kind of thing. The in- 
dividual engravers no longer signed their work, which bore the 
name of the shop in which the blocks were turned out. In France 
the engraver continued to sign his work long after he had ceased 
to do so in England. 

This subdivision of specialized skill was carried to its final 
limit of economic practicability and artistic and reportorial folly 
in the big double page wood-engravings that appeared in the 
popular weekly papers of the middle of the century. To show how 
this worked: The artists in the field or at the front would send back 
little sketches of the most generalized and undetailed variety. These 
were then copied in large size on the big blocks for the centre 
pages by draughtsmen attached to the home offices, who supplied 
the detail and the tonality missing in the little sketches. During the 
Crimean War Constantin Guys was the field artist of the Illustrated 
London News, and his little drawings were blown up by Gavarni 
in London. The big blocks were made by clamping together many 
little pieces of wood, In America, when the final drawing had been 
made on the block, the clamps were removed from the block, it 
was disassembled, and each piece was given to a different engraver 
in a quantity production shop. Each engraver then engraved the 
middle of the surface of his piece of the big block, while carefully 
leaving untouched a little margin about his work. When the little 

98 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

pieces of wood had been treated in tMs way they were reassembled 
and clamped together again, after which the big block went to a 
particularly skilled engraver whose task it was to knit the picture 
together by engraving the untouched margins of the little pieces in 
such a way that their joins would not be too strikingly noticeable. 
The result was only what might have been expected. In the first 
place, all the engravers had to engrave as much alike as possible, 
using a predetermined system or network of engraved lines in 
which they had been trained. The prints from the big blocks were 
thus second- or third- or fourth-hand accounts, or even badly 
jumbled accounts by many different people, of what things were 
supposed to look like. Not only was there no impersonal state- 
ment such as was later to be supplied by the camera, but there was 
no first-hand statement at all. The responsibility for pictorial 
statements had been by-passed, and such statements as were 
actually made had been reduced to a flat dull plane of reason- 
ability. 

Under the circumstances, no faith could be put in any exactly 
repeated pictorial statement of fact beyond what might seem to 
be within the realm of general common sense and reasonability 
of people who literally knew nothing at first-hand and who had 
never seen a first-hand statement of what was being stated. Any- 
thing that to them seemed unreasonable, or as they used to say in 
New England *agin Natur', or mixed up or unclear, was suspect. 
When a report of what happens in the Hindu Kush has to be made 
in such a way as to appear reasonable to persons who have never 
been more than forty miles from St. PauFs the report will bear 
very little resemblance to the fact. I personally have little doubt 
that this rationalized and untrustworthy hearsay visual evidence 
had a great deal to do with the seventeenth and eighteenth cen- 
turies* general demand for reasonability. I am certain that it had 
much to do with the prevailing lack of imagination in eighteenth 
century art and literature and the dominance in them of varieties 
of common sense. If there had been hand cameras in the days 
when Boswell took Dr Johnson on that trip to the Hebrides, no 

99 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

one would have thought that he should take his diary of the trip 
to Malone to have its sharp notation of details excised and its 
place taken by common sense generalities. 

In the first half of the nineteenth century the technique of 
etching and of mixed etching and engraving, especially at the 
hands of such men as reproduced the drawings and paintings of 
Turner, was carried to such a state of technical surety and expert- 
ness as had never before and has not since been equalled. It is one 
of the greater ironies that the much touted Revival of Etching, 
which the books tell us began about the middle of the nineteenth 
century, was actually not a revival of the craft of etching at all 
but the adoption of the technique by a group of on the whole 
rather poor draughtsmen and incompetent technicians who in one 
way or another managed to gain the attention of the public. In a 
period, like that of the 1890's, in which Whistler was often said, 
and by many believed, to be the greatest etcher since Rembrandt, 
it was easy to forget not only the work of such masters of tech- 
nique as the Findens, but the very existence of such great draughts- 
men on the copper as Piranesi, Canaletto, Goya, Delacroix and 
his fellow romantics, and of such Englishmen as Hogarth, Row- 
landson, Girtin, and Cotman. It was also distressingly easy to 
overlook the etchings of such contemporaries as Manet and Degas. 
The emphasis on etching as such was an escape from the problem 
of draughtsmanship and design. When a man asks do you not 
think this is a good etching, his words relate to the craft and not 
to the picture an inversion of interest and importances that has 
fooled a great many innocent people. It is a hang over from the 
eighteenth century's interest in the moire of engraved lines and its 
forgetfulness of the picture. 

Original line engraving produced but two still generally recog- 
nized masters during the nineteenth century Blake and Gaillard 
the one a very incompetent technician and draughtsman, the 
other a portraitist of the type exemplified in oil paint by Balthazar 
Denner. Blake, who was born in 1757, based his style on the prints 
by the weaker stylizing followers of Marc Antonio and was com- 

100 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

pletely out of sympathy with the point of view of such a man as 
Rembrandt. It is to be noted that the appreciation of Blake's 
work has been confined in largest measure to persons of bookish 
tastes rather than of visual tastes and experiences, and that it has 
never extended beyond the boundaries of the English speaking 
peoples. When considered in connection with the comparative 
poverty of those peoples in the arts of design, this last fact has 
implications of great interest. Gaillard was one of the leaders in a 
belated French mid-century revolt against the tyranny of the 
traditional lozenge and dot structure in line engraving. His ideal 
would seem to have been a sort of hand-made daguerreotype, and 
his linear structure got below the threshold of what for most per- 
sons is the limit of unaided eyesight. Many people had, and, alas, 
still have, the notion that the more niggling lines an etcher or 
engraver can lay in a given space the more remarkable a technician 
he is. It is perilously easy to forget that after all an etching or 
engraving is a drawing and that the most important thing in a 
drawing is draughtsmanship. Line engraving may be said to have 
met its Waterloo with the invention of a method of engraving on 
steel for the making of bank notes. With this it took little time for 
it to become a trade and not an art. 

The two most interesting developments of the first half of the 
nineteenth century took place in wood-engraving and in litho- 
graphy. Wood-engraving was carried to its greatest and silliest 
peaks of virtuosity in England a country that never took kindly 
to lithography even though it used a great deal of it for menial 
purposes. I have a friend whose opinions are much like those of 
the late Queen Victoria you can count on him to express what 
most Englishmen thought seventy-five years ago. He tells me that a 
lithograph has no character and is merely a reproduction of a 
drawing, and is therefore not comparable to an etching or en- 
graving, which has an exquisite artistic character no matter how 
dull it may be. In any event, lithography received its greatest 
development in France, which also made great use of wood- 
engraving, though never in the pedantic manner that delighted 

101 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

the English. It may be that if I had been born and educated in 
Central Europe I should find the German and Austrian graphic 
output of the nineteenth century of more interest and significance 
than I do. Unless I am horribly mistaken the only artistically 
worthwhile prints made in Germany during the greater part of 
the century were those that came out of the printing office of 
the Fliegende Blaetter and other such irreverent and unsolemn 
places. 

The development of the Bewickian wood-engraving in England 
is interesting for reasons other than its minor artistic merits. It 
provides a typical case history of what happens when a new pro- 
cess or technique is introduced and is not rapidly put to use by 
men of genius. It is particularly valuable because the material is 
copious and the data are in general easily accessible. The prime 
factors involved, in addition to the finely reticulated surface of the 
wood-block, were the paper, the ink, the method of inking the 
block, and the press. Except for several minor innovations in the 
design of the press, these things had remained without material 
change from the fourteen-hundreds until about 1800, and on the 
continent of Europe did so until a generation later. It was the insist- 
tent demand for the new wood engravings that caused all these 
things to undergo the great changes that took place in them by the 
middle of the century. William Morris and his typographical fol- 
lowers have finely damned all the works of that period, forgetting 
that they themselves were among them. But, much influence as the 
Morris doctrine has had in certain limited and snobbish sorts of 
printing, the facts remain that our modern techniques and our 
modem requirements come out of what may be called the 
Bewickian revolution. It is to be noted that the final test of the 
technical skill of the pressman is to be looked for in how cleanly 
he prints his fine textured blocks and half tones and not in how 
much ink he can load on his types. 

Bewick, in the eighteenth century, had been able to secure good 
impressions from his blocks which were not comparable in fine- 
ness of texture to our ordinary half tones but only by rubbing 

102 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

the paper down onto the inked blocks with an engraver's burnisher. 
Moreover he had been able to secure excellent impressions only 
by using little pieces of the yellowish, very smooth, and very thin 
paper with which at that time the Chinese packed their shipments 
of tea to England. The impressions of his blocks which appeared 
in 1797, in the first edition of the first volume of his British Birds, 
were actually so poor that in 1800, in response to popular demand, 
he issued a volume containing impressions of them printed on one 
side of the paper only and without text. When we of today look 
at these impressions of 1800, the first thing we are aware of is the 
exceedingly poor quality of the prints from the blocks. Much of 
the detail is literally illegible. No newspaper of today, running off 
its edition of half a million copies in a few hours, would tolerate 
what Bewick in 1800 thought good. It was not until towards the 
end of his life that Bewick was able to secure a supply of India or 
China paper sufficient in quantity to run off a very small edition 
de luxe of impressions from the blocks of the British Birds which 
really showed what was in them. 

In 1809 there was published a slender volume of text and wood- 
engravings under the title Religious Emblems, Being a Series of 
Engravings on Wood . . .from Designs drawn on the Blocks Them- 
selves by J. Thurston Esq., some copies of which had the peculiarity 
that the text was printed on book paper while the blocks were 
separately struck off on sheets of China paper that were then 
bound up in appropriate places between the text pages. In 1810 a 
small number of copies of Rogers's Pleasures of Memory was issued 
in which both the text and the wood-engravings, by Cleirnell after 
Stothard, were printed on very thin smooth China paper. I can 
recall no earlier instance of either practice, that used in the 
Emblems or that used in the Pleasures, both of which have become 
well-known ways of giving a snobbish appeal to picture books, 
usually of minor artistic interest. The engravings in the Emblems 
were rather elaborate essays in the production of tones extending 
from light greys to the fullest blacks. Those in the Pleasures were 
called facsimiles of line drawings. The quality of the prints in these 

103 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

two volumes is far better than any that Bewick was ever able to 
produce in his regularly issued volumes. 

In 1817 there was a limited edition of Puckle*s Club, in which 
the remarkably fine textured illustrations far finer than any that 
had previously been produced were struck off on thin China or 
India paper that was mounted on the text pages. The equally fine 
textured tail pieces were printed directly on the paper used in the 
text, and much of their work vanished because the lines of the 
blocks were so much finer than the texture of the paper. 

In 1822 there appeared Savage's Hints on Decorative Printing, 
a very de luxe effort, which contained, in addition to many costly 
experiments in colour printing, two of the most amazing and 
remarkably foolish emulations or adaptations of copper plate 
techniques to engraving on wood that have ever been made. They 
were printed on China paper mounted down, and were accom- 
panied by impressions from the cancelled blocks carefully printed 
on the paper used for the type pages. The difference between the 
impressions on the two sorts of paper is striking. So far as I recall 
this is the first book in which impressions from the cancelled 
printing surfaces of the illustrations were included. A mere trick 
of snobbery in this instance serves a useful end for the student of 
techniques. 

In 1824, what was perhaps the apogee of the search for fineness 
of black line linear texture was reached in Henderson's History of 
Ancient and Modern Wines, the head-pieces and initials in which 
also had to be printed on India paper that was mounted on the 
regular paper of the text. Here again it is possible to see the differ- 
ence made by the paper, for Bohn reprinted many of the blocks on 
good smooth paper of a commercial variety in his edition of 
Jackson and Chatto's History of Wood-engraving. After the 
Henderson very few attempts were made to rival on wood the 
fineness of the etched or engraved lines on copper. The cost of 
printing, and the difficulty of procuring the proper exotic paper, 
made it impossible to supply the greater public with illustrated 
books of this kind. Wood-engraving, like type printing, was 

104 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

not to come of age until it had come down from the higher 
levels of expensiveness and become a rather cheap and common 
thing. 

The one way in which these wonderful but silly books resembled 
each other was that, even when their illustrations were supposed 
to be facsimiles of pen or pencil lines, they smelled to Heaven of 
engraving. The Rogers of 1810 was long famous for the accuracy 
with which it reproduced the quality of Stothard's lines, and 
remained so until after the pervasion of the photomechanical pro- 
cesses. As we look at its illustrations today their outstanding 
quality comes from the fact that their lines are engraved and reek 
of the engraver's tool. 

Bewick, if not a great artist, was a very original one with a good 
deal to say of an amusing anecdotal kind. His sketches were no 
more than preliminary studies for the finished engravings that came 
from his hand, with their free, bold, and often brilliant representa- 
tions of textures. The one way in which his prints differ technically 
from all previous woodcuts and engravings on copper is that the 
linear structure is sometimes in black lines on white grounds and 
sometimes in white lines on black grounds. Otherwise they have 
the same kind of a net of rationality, although a different one, as 
the earlier prints. The other two original wood-engravers of the 
first part of the century in England, Blake and Calvert, had much 
the same technical approach as Bewick, but modified in practice by 
their so different personalities and interests. They were more inter- 
ested in making their statements than in exhibiting their mere 
virtuosity in the use of the engraver's tool. But this cannot be said 
of many of their contemporaries and followers, for whom their 
engraving was of much more importance than the drawings on the 
blocks. Even when, as in the case of Harvey, they made the draw- 
ings they engraved, the final result was of much more interest as a 
tour deforce of engraving than it was as a design. As early as 1821 
the idea had grown up for wood-engraving, just as it had long 
before for copper engraving, that a wood-engraving should look 
like a wood-engraving and be all neat and tidy with its net of lines. 

105 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

We find this clearly stated in the footnote at the beginning of the 
first Eclogue in Thornton's Vergil, of 1821, where Thornton says, 
The Illustrations of this English Pastoral are by the famous Blake, 
the Illustrator of Young's Night Thoughts, and Blair's Grave; who 
designed and engraved them himself. This is mentioned, as they 
display less of art than genius, and are much admired by some 
eminent painters/ Thornton did not think to mention that in his 
horror at genius as distinct from art he had had a number of 
Blake's blocks remade by other more routine hands, in such a way 
that they would be more 'artistic'. I recall no other instance in 
which we get so clear a verbal statement of the tyranny of the 
standardized network of the engraved line, but if we use our eyes 
we can find many others with great ease. 

Harvey, after working with Bewick as an apprentice, trans- 
ferred to the studio of B. R. Haydon, the painter, there to learn 
drawing in itself a commentary upon many things. While with 
Haydon he copied Haydon's painting of the 'Death of Lucius 
Quintus Dentatus' on what was then considered an enormous 
block, for it was 15 by Hi inches in size. He finished the block 
after having worked at it for much of three years, and then, to his 
chagrin, discovered that there was no printing press in England 
powerful enough to produce a proper impression of it. It was not 
until the early 1820's that Johnson, the printer, discovered that the 
Columbian Press, then but recently introduced into England by 
Clymer of Philadelphia, when rigged with a much lengthened bar 
and operated by two strong men instead of a single boy, was strong 
enough to print Harvey's block. Johnson's account of this incident 
and his account of the other presses then in use in England, as 
given in his Typographia of 1824, are of prime interest to anyone 
curious about the problems presented by. the new graphic tech- 
nique. Incidentally, Johnson had to work out a new printer's ink 
that would be both thin enough and opaque enough for the 
printing of Harvey's block. From that time on the problem pre- 
sented by the ink became a matter for serious thought, for it could 
no longer be coped with by the traditional recipes. In 1817 ink 

106 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

rollers were put on the market to take the place of the ink balls 
that had been in use since the fifteenth century. 

It soon became evident that the greater public, while it had 
little interest in the virtuosity of the wood-engravers or in wood- 
engraving as such, was very much interested in pictorial informa- 
tion at a small price. Thus it may be that the most important event 
in the middle history of wood-engraving in England was the 
founding by Charles Knight in 1832 of his weekly Penny Magazine. 
It was produced on a cylinder press, operated by steam, which 
raised the output of two men working eight hours a day from the 
1,000 sheets reached by the old hand-operated press to 16,000 
sheets printed on both sides. Within a year its circulation reached 
the astonishing number of 200,000. It owed much of its popularity 
to the fact that it was illustrated with coarse wood-engravings and 
was directed at a public which previously had been given but slight 
attention by the publishers of picture books. This public liked 
pictures and drawings and cared nothing about methods of re- 
production. It was, therefore, not very long before the emphasis 
in the illustration of books shifted from the fact that the 
pictures were engravings to the fact that they were supposed to 
be facsimiles of drawings. The early illustrations of this kind were 
dull enough hack work, but finally in 1857 there appeared the 
affectionately remembered pre-Raphaelite Tennyson, full of illus- 
trations drawn on the blocks by such men as Hunt, Millais and 
Rossetti. In that year there appeared the first number of Once a 
Week., which called to its service some remarkable pictorial talent. 

About 1860, a minor wood-engraver, named Thomas Bolton, 
had the idea of sensitizing the surface of his wood-block, on which 
he had a photograph printed from a negative after a relief by 
Flaxman. He made his engraving through the photograph as 
though it had been a drawing in tints on the block. A print of it is 
to be found in the Jackson and Chatto Treatise on Wood-engraving 
in Bohn's edition, in which it was included as a novelty, but with- 
out any particular comment. So far as I have noticed it represented 
the first effective step towards that final substitution of photo- 

107 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

graphy for draughtsmanship in informative book illustration that 
could be printed at the same time as the text it accompanied. When 
we reach the page in the Jackson and Chatto which contains the 
impression from Bolton's block we seem to step into another 
world of vision, and for the first time to meet a repeatable pictorial 
statement in which we can have a little confidence. If we read our 
history backwards which is the only way in which it can be read 
intelligently this neglected little print by Bolton must be regarded 
as in many ways the most important wood-engraving that had been 
made up to its time. The history of the next forty years of book 
illustration is little more than an account of the pervasion of 
Bolton's idea, and its final development into the trivial, boring, 
and empty virtuosity of engraving over a photographic basis, that 
was, so short a time ago, the much vaunted characteristic of the 
American school of wood-engraving. It was displaced at the end 
of the century by a process of making photographic pictures in 
which even the engraver himself was dispensed with. 

From the point of view of their artistic content, I have little 
doubt that the most remarkable wood-engravings of the nineteenth 
century were some of those for which the drawings on the blocks 
were made by Daumier in France. 

Now to turn to the lithograph Senefelder in his youth was a 
musical composer who had great difficulty in getting his music 
published, and who was too poor to pay for it himself. This turned 
Ms mind to the techniques of music printing. In the course of his 
thought about this he discovered, by an accident which involved 
a wash list, the principle on which lithography works. From being 
a poor musician he turned into an inventor and promoter. Un- 
fortunately for him he could not get an effective patent and the 
first description of Ms process was made by someone else. How- 
ever, within a few years his representatives and emulators were 
busy in many of the major cities of Europe. He made Ms discovery 
in 1797, and within the next year or so had himself introduced it 
into England. By 1803 the Polyautographic Album had been pub- 
lished in London. By the next year a similar publication under a 

108 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

German version of the same name had been published in Berlin. 
Several French artists, notably Vivant Denon, learned lithography 
during the Napoleonic invasions of Germany, and, carrying the 
technique back to Paris, succeeded, after the Restoration, in getting 
the highest in the land to practise it as a diversion. In this he was 
undoubtedly helped by the fact that one of the earliest lithographic 
portraits had been made in England by the young refugee Due de 
Montpensier of his brother who was later to become King 
Louis Philippe. In 1816, Engelmann, an Alsatian, set up a litho- 
graphic printing establishment in Paris. 

In Germany and in England the new process had little luck in 
those it attracted to its use, and its possibilities lay dormant while 
second-rate and worse draughtsmen used it in imitation of timid 
drawings in pen and ink and in chalks. In 1807 in Germany it was 
used to produce copies of the pen drawings by Diker for the 
Emperor Maximilian's prayer book, which was shortly followed by 
a long series of volumes devoted to the reproduction of paintings 
and drawings in famous collections. To put it mildly they were 
villainous libels. Also there were some drawing books in which 
misguided men attempted to show small boys and girls how they 
really ought not to draw. And there were a few timid romantic 
landscapes, and ruins, and old buildings. In England the Album of 
1803 contained drawings by such men as Benjamin West and 
Stothard and a number of the lesser landscapists, but none of 
them shows that lithography had anything more in store than the 
reproduction of academic and timid pedantries. There are no artist- 
ically noteworthy English lithographs, and very few German ones. 

In France, however, by 1825 there had come to the new process 
such men as Ingres, Gericault, and Delacroix. About that same 
year, Goya, from his retirement in southern France, broke forth 
with his famous set of four large lithographs of bull fights, to which 
he brought all his painter's bold draughtsmanship, and all Ms 
feeling for design, for colour, and for atmosphere. For those with 
the wit to understand, these prints were the declaration of inde- 
pendence of the new medium. He showed that it was made to the 

109 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

hand of the painter accustomed to draw with the brush and was 
not confined to the hands of the engraver craftsmen. In 1828 
Delacroix illustrated Goethe's Faust. Its effect was like that of a 
bombshell. Paris was rapidly filled with practitioners of the new 
technique, among whom were many of the best painters of the day. 
In 1830 Philipon started the Caricature, which was followed in 
1832 by the Charivari. Philipon began to publish Daumier's work 
early in the thirties, and, with one short interval in the middle of 
the century, his work continued to appear until 1871. Few of the 
French painters of the nineteenth century who achieved great and 
abiding renown did not at one time or another try their hands at 
lithography. A mere short list of some of them Prudhon, Ingres, 
Decamps, Diaz, Gericault, Delacroix, Chasseriau, Daumier, Millet, 
Corot, Puvis, Manet, Degas, Cezanne, Pissarro, Renoir, Gauguin, 
Redon, and Toulouse-Lautrec is sufficient. Alongside these 
painters there were professional makers of prints, as, for instance, 
Isabey and Raffet, Gavami and Dore, who greatly affected public 
taste and thought. It is to be doubted whether any of all the 
mediums for making prints called to itself in so short a time such 
a group of great masters as made lithographs in Paris between 
1825 and 1901. 

The advantage of lithography was that the artist's drawing and 
the print were practically identical there was no reworking of his 
drawing by another hand, let alone any copying of it in another 
medium, and it could be made in any way and with any or no 
linear scheme as the artist liked. It afforded the most complete 
gamut of tones between white and black, and achieved them with 
the greatest ease. A lithograph could be as loose and sketchy as 
Manet's *Race Course*, or as elaborately worked as Delacroix's 
'Sister of Du Guesclin* in other words it could do anything be~ 
tween the first roughest pencil or chalk sketch to something that can 
only be compared to a fully developed and detailed oil painting. It 
completely did away with any need for the translator-middle man- 
engraver with his inevitable systematized grammar and syntax 
of linear webbing. Its defect was that, like the copper-plate pro 

no 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

cesses, it had to be printed in a different press than that which 
printed type, and thus called for two separate printings if it were 
to be used as a book illustration. 

Many of Daumier's finest designs fell victims of an attempt to 
circumvent this double printing. He made his lithographs as usual, 
but they were transferred to metal plates and then bitten so that 
they could be printed as relief blocks with and at the same time as 
the text of the newspaper. As it was then impossible, in the short 
time at command, to prepare the 'make ready' required to bring 
out the colour values of the lines, these prints in the Charivari lost 
most of their colour and variety of tone. Little as print collectors 
may fancy them because of their lack of colour and that curious 
thing the collectors call 'quality', these quasi-lithographs number 
among them] some of the most magisterial prints that Daumier 
ever made. 

From the particular point of view here taken, it is interesting 
to notice that Daumier never became a professional lithographer 
and never made any prints to show his virtuosity in the medium 
in which he did most of his work. If I recall correctly he made but 
one reproductive print after another man's picture in all his life. 
He simply drew with the lithographic material on a piece of litho- 
graphic stone, and with it said what he had to say about life and 
politics, with never a thought that he should show off what tricks 
he could do with the medium. It is probable that in this he ranks 
with Mantegna, Titian, the old Rembrandt, Goya, and Degas, 
who so dominated their graphic processes that they gave them but 
little thought for what they might be in their own right, and 
certainly gave no thought to the notion that it is an artist's duty to 
stay within and to exploit what the community regards as the 
characteristic qualities of his medium. 

Lithography's final flare-up took place in the last decade of 
the nineteenth century, when it was triumphantly used for a short 
while as the simplest and easiest medium in which to produce 
advertising posters, some of which were of enormous size. The 
great master of this episode was Toulouse-Lautrec. 

Ill 



THE TYRANNY BROKEN 

It is amusing to notice that as the English and German speaking 
worlds have become acquainted with the graphic work of these 
French painters of the nineteenth century whose names I have 
mentioned an acquaintanceship that hardly goes back of the first 
World War the popularity of these prints by men who cared 
nothing about the traditional conventions for the dress and con- 
duct of nice prints in society, has brought about a very remarkable 
change in taste and feeling about prints of all kinds. It has worked 
backwards and brought out into the light many earlier prints that 
were overlooked because they did not conform to the tricks and 
virtuosities which for generations had appealed to the 'graphic 
hearts and eyes* of the connoisseurs of the trivial qualities of mere 
manipulation. And it has caused many towering reputations, both 
of the long past and of yesterday, to take great falls. Not the least 
interesting part of this is that it has occurred simultaneously with 
the perfection of the modern techniques in photography and 
photographic process which have made adequate reproductions 
of the older prints both possible and common. The collectors, like 
the greater public, are finally discovering that what counts in 
original prints is pretty much the same thing that counts in painting 
and design, and not mere slickness in traditional rituals of tech- 
nique. Someone said about Blaise Pascal that he had no style, he 
merely had important ideas which he expressed in such form that 
there was no difference between his words and Ms thought. 



112 



f$!^?;i^ 

l^if-^f^ ; ;;"; ?$?%$!%&& 




65. Portion of a lithograph of a Bull Fight, by Goya. About 1825. Reduced. 




66. Portion of Delacroix's lithograph of 'La Soeur de Du Guesclin'. 
About actual size. 




67. Portion of Daumler's lithograph fc Un zeste! imrien!\ from Le Boulevard. 

Reduced. 



'V 




68. Portion of Manet's lithograph after his painting of 'Les Courses*. 
About actual size. 




69. Engraved illustration of a Roman wall painting, from Winckelmann's 
History of Ancient Art, 1880. About actual size. 







70. Line block after a pen drawing by VIerge, for Pablo de 
Segovie* 1881. About actual size. 




71. Portion of a grain half-tone after a drawing by Natoire, from V Artiste * 

1882. Enlarged. 




72. Portion of an early cross line half-tone after a photograph of a classical 
sculpture, from Furtwangler's Meisterwerke der Gnechischen Plasilk, 

1893. Enlarged. 



VI 

PICTORIAL STATEMENT 

WITHOUT SYNTAX 
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 



DURING the nineteenth century there were a great many 
experiments and trials of novel technical ideas in print- 
making. Many of these techniques had appreciable 
merits from practical points of view, but inevitably 
most of them vanished very rapidly as still newer methods were 
introduced. In the lack of any extrinsic evidence it is frequently 
difficult if not impossible to tell from the face of a relief print made 
in the middle years of the century just what process was actually 
used in its making. 

The adherents of the old traditional techniques, in their losing 
battle for supremacy, set up an idea which for a long time in- 
fluenced not only the critics but the general public. It was that, 
somehow, the old processes were intrinsically more artistic than 
the newer ones. In the print-collecting game there were purely 
verbalistic definitions of what was artistic that had nothing to do 
with either design or expression. Thus there gradually grew up in 
*p.v.c. 113 K 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

the public mind a notion that there was an artistic hierarchy of 
the graphic media. In the United States, for example, there was a 
strongly and generally held opinion that etching was more artistic 
than line-engraving, that both were more artistic than wood- 
engraving, that wood-engraving was more artistic than wood- 
cutting, and that all were more artistic than lithography. Lowest 
of all and utterly contemptible, were photography and any medium 
that bore the name of some 'process'. 

I have, myself, been scolded by gentlemen of the older school 
for buying lithographs for my institution when I could have bought 
etchings for it, and for buying the horrid rough old woodcuts by 
such artists as Diirer and Cranach when I could have bought the 
cha'rming, refined, and delicate, white line reproductive, wood- 
engravings of such modern masters as Timothy Cole and Elbridge 
Kingsley. Any so-called 'original' print by any minor artist was 
per se more artistic than one made under the supervision of even 
the greatest artist and after a design that he had made specially for 
the purpose. A well-known collector, famous for his artistic per- 
ception and taste, once took me severely to task for showing in the 
same exhibition prints from Turner's Liber Studiorum in which the 
work was all done by Turner himself and prints from the same 
series in which all the work on the plates was done by professional 
engravers working under Turner's immediate supervision. Later, 
when this doctrinaire had become very enthusiastic over some 
colour prints in an exhibition, I showed him that they were merely 
the front covers of an old French weekly journal, carefully matted 
so as to cover up their tell tale titles and type printing. Had he seen 
them first unmatted they would have been what in his estimation 
was the lowest of the low, mere process reproductions of drawings 
that had been specially made to be reproduced that way. 

As we look back from the middle of the twentieth century all 
that kind of talk and opinion seems very silly, for it has become 
obvious that what makes a medium artistically important is not 
any quality of the medium itself but the qualities of mind and hand 
that its users bring to it. 

114 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

Thus, there is doubtfully any more ungrateful medium than the 
now forgotten chalk plate, and yet it was probably the medium in 
which Daumier in the 1830's produced some of his more astonish- 
ing prints. In the middle of the century at Paris many of the best 
artists made prints by the various processes associated with the 
names of Gillot and of Comte. Because they were known, not as 
etchings, or engravings, or lithographs, but as the Comte process 
or the Gillot process, and because their results came out in popular 
books and magazines, they have been overlooked by the students 
of prints, although many of them were fully autographic, involved 
no use of photography, and were often of great interest and charm. 
Perhaps the funniest of these instances in which verbal definitions 
got in the way of eyesight and appreciation is provided by the 
cliches verre or cliches glace, which had a short vogue among such 
painters as Corot, Millet and Rousseau. After the invention of 
photographic paper that could be bought in packages, ready made 
and ready for use, these artists took to covering sheets of glass 
with a light resistant coating and then scratching or working a 
design through this, so that the glass could be used as a photo- 
graphic negative from which photographic prints could be taken. 
So far as the artist was concerned it was a much more direct and 
simple process than etching. But because these prints were neither 
etchings, nor lithographs, and because they were not actually 
photographs made with a camera, they never became popular 
among collectors or public. People simply could not adjust them- 
selves to such shocking and novel technical ideas as were exempli- 
fied in these prints. In this way tradition won out over the actual 
fact that here were some of the most thoroughly original and 
indubitably artistic prints of the century. I have sometimes won- 
dered whether there is any field of art collecting which is more 
hidebound and hamstrung by arbitrary definitions than that of 
prints. 

In any case, as seen from today's point of view, the great 
events in the nineteenth-century history of prints were the dis- 
coveries of photography and its attendant photo-mechanical 

115 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

processes. The tradition of^snobbery is still so strong, however, 
that neither of these things is ever mentioned in any of the general 
histories of prints. Actually they have worked one of the major 
revolutions not only in vision but in the recording of its observa- 
tions, and they have very completely changed taste and valuations 
in the field of the older prints. 

As pointed out in the first chapter of this essay, the ancients 
had all the materials and basic techniques that were needed to 
make many kinds of prints. The one thing that they lacked was 
the idea of making prints. With photography, however, we come 
to a kind of print that no one could have made* before the nine- 
teenth century. The reason for this was that photography, instead 
of being based upon simple manual techniques and immemorially 
familiar materials, was based on quite recent developments in the 
sciences of physics and, especially, of chemistry. I have an idea 
that a very good argument could be put up for the claim that it is 
through photography that art and science have had their most 
striking effect upon the thought of the average man of today. 
From many points of view the histories of techniques, of art, of 
science, and of thought, can be quite properly and cogently divided 
into their pre- and post-photographic periods. It may be doubted 
if even the renaissance itself, or, if one prefers, the baroque seven- 
teenth century, brought about such thoroughgoing changes in 
values, attitudes, and ideas, as took place in the nineteenth century 
and the early years of this one. Many of these new notions are 
intimately related to photography and its materials. 

The prehistory of photography consists of two very different 
sets of observations, one of them optical, the other chemical. They 
were not brought into conjunction until the nineteenth century. 

In all probability men have always wondered about the fact 
that when the sun strikes through an angular hole it makes a 
round spot of light on the surface it hits. Also many must have 
had the experience of seeing a brilliantly lighted street scene por- 
trayed on the wall or ceiling of a darkened room by a beam of light 
that came through a chink in the window blind. It is said that 

116 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

Daniel Barbaro's book on perspective, of 1568, was the first to 
point out that a sharper image could be procured if a proper lens 
were inserted in the chink in the window blind. This was the 
origin of the camera obscura, a name which is merely the Italian 
for a darkened room. In the eighteenth century and the early years 
of the nineteenth century the camera obscura was developed into 
a portable means of enabling people to take tracings of landscapes 
and other well-lighted subjects. Little practical use was made of it, 
and in general it was no more than a gadget for people who did 
not know how to draw. The only outstanding exception was 
Girtin, who, with its aid, produced one of the most remarkable 
sets of architectural etchings that has ever been made. 

From the earliest times men have unavoidably been acquainted 
with the fact that some substances, such for example as human 
skin and freshly cut meat and wood, change colours when exposed 
for a while to the brilliant sun. In 1727, a German chemist named 
Schulze noticed that a liquid mixture of various things in a bottle 
became purple where it was exposed to the sun, but did not change 
colour where the sun did not strike it. He discovered that this was 
due to the presence in his mixture of a trace of nitrate of silver. 
During the rest of the century chemists recorded their discoveries 
of the action of the sun on a number of chemical salts. Among the 
other discoveries made by them was that of the existence at either 
end of the visible spectrum of invisible rays which affected their 
chemicals. 

The first man, apparently, to try to put these experiments to 
practical use in picture-making was Thomas Wedgwood, who, in 
1802, announced that he had been able to get an image of a leaf 
or other object that was laid on a piece of paper treated with 
nitrate of silver and exposed to the action of the sun. Where the 
sun hit the paper directly the paper turned dark, where the sun had 
to go through the leaf it turned the paper dark in proportion to the 
amount of light that went through it Unfortunately, after a little 
while, the image of the leaf went dark also. Wedgwood and his 
collaborator Humphry Davy found no way of making these 

117 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

images permanent, though Davy, later on, did discover that 
chloride of silver, when substituted for nitrate of silver, materially 
reduced the time required to get the image. Wedgwood also tried 
to make his images by exposing his sensitized paper to light in a 
camera obscura, but his chemicals were so slow in their reaction 
to the light that came through the lens of his camera that he did 
not succeed. 

The story now divides into two quite separate and different 
parts, one of which led to the discovery of the daguerreotype and 
the other to that of the photograph. These are two very different 
things, and, in spite of long tradition to the contrary, should not 
be mixed up. A photograph is an image, usually on paper, in silver 
or pigment, or stain, that can be exactly repeated. The daguerreo- 
type not only was not exactly repeatable, but its image instead of 
being composed of pigments or stains was made by the minute 
shadows cast by the light in microscopically small reticulations or 
pits in the surface of a highly polished metal plate. That this is so, 
is shown by the fact, discovered long afterwards, that an electro- 
type can be taken of a daguerreotype, and that the cast or mould 
made in this way also shows the image that is seen on the original 
daguerreotype. 

As the making of daguerreotypes went out of fashion in the 
1860's and has never returned, I shall deal with it first, so that later 
we may be able to get an uninterrupted story of the photograph. 

Some time before 1826, Niepce, a Frenchman, discovered that 
a bitumen which was normally soluble in a certain kind of oil 
ceased to be soluble after it had been exposed to the sun. In 1826 he 
prepared a metal plate by covering its surface with his bitumen. He 
then waxed an old engraving, so that its paper became translucent. 
He put the waxed engraving on top of the prepared plate and ex- 
posed them together to the sun. Where the sunlight was prevented 
by the black lines of the engraving from reaching the bitumen, the 
bitumen remained unaltered, but where the light came through the 
paper the bitumen was made insoluble. Then by bathing Ms plate 
in his oil, he dissolved away the bitumen that lay under the lines 

118 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

of the engraving. It was now a simple matter to bite the plate just 
as though it had been an etching plate, and to print from it in an 
etching press. One of the original plates is still in existence. The 
prints pulled from it were not photographs, but, curiously, were 
nevertheless the first crude instances of what today we call photo- 



Niepce then carried the matter further. He coated a sheet of 
glass with his bitumen and exposed it for a long time in a camera 
obscura to the light reflected from objects. This time he seems to 
have got not only whites and blacks but middle tones between 
them in the coat of hardened bitumen left on his glass after he had 
bathed it in his oil. Niepce, however, kept his processes secret, and, 
as all the pictures of objects he made with them have vanished, the 
only record of his experiments is that which is contained in some 
very unrevealing letters and the lone metal plate and such prints 
from it as may exist. 

In 1827 Niepce went into partnership with an inventive painter 
named Daguerre, but he died before the partnership produced any 
notable results. By 1837 Daguerre had produced a daguerreotype 
of a corner of his studio, by a process which he discovered by 
accident. He tried to keep his process secret even from those to 
whom he tried to sell it, and it was not until January, 1839, that, 
forced by a fire which had burned him out, he agreed to make his 
process public to the world in return for annuities to be paid by 
the French government to him and to the son of Niepce. The 
government had to look into the matter, and so it was not until 
August 19, 1839, that, at a great and theatrical meeting, attended 
by many notables and accompanied by all the publicity that was 
then possible, he demonstrated Ms process. 

The daguerreotype plates had polished silver surfaces. These 
surfaces were exposed to the fumes of hot iodine, which covered 
them with minute dots of iodine which formed iodide of silver. 
The plates were immediately placed in a camera which had been 
already focussed on the object of which a picture was desired, and 
exposed to the light that came through the camera's lens. At that 

119 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

time it required, depending on the kind of a day it was, from five 
to forty minutes to make the necessary exposure. The plate was 
then immediately exposed to the vapour from a bath of hot mer- 
cury, which by forming an amalgam with the dots of iodide of 
silver that had been acted on by the light, made the image visible. 
To make the image permanent, it was necessary to get rid of the 
dots that had not been acted upon by the light. This was done by 
washing the plate in a bath of common salt, for which later on a 
bath of what we now call 'hypo* was substituted. The daguerreo- 
type was thus a sheet of silver covered by an amalgam in which 
there were minute pits where the light had not affected the surface. 
The detail and the accuracy of the pictures were astonishing, 
but the pictures were faint, they were in reverse, the tones were 
harsh, the surfaces were extremely fragile and could not be 
touched, and they could not be exactly repeated. Furthermore, 
the time required for the exposure was so long that it was impos- 
sible to make a portrait, let alone a picture of a human being or 
an animal in motion. Various people immediately attacked these 
problems with vigour. Bigger and more accurate lenses were made 
for the cameras which admitted more light and thus cut down the 
time required for an exposure. New ways of sensitizing the plates 
were discovered which made them much more rapid. By 1840 it 
was possible to take a portrait in a minute. The same year a way 
was found of toning the plates with gold, so that they were not so 
stark and harsh. In a very short time daguerreotypes were being 
made all over the world. Daguerreotype plates were worked up 
by etching and engraving so that they could be printed in the 
etcher's press. Prints of this kind appeared in a book printed at 
Paris in 1842. Among them were two, made by Fizeau, that might 
be called primitive photogravures. But in spite of everything, 
daguerreotypes were still in reverse, they were fragile, and they 
were not exactly repeatable. Their images could only be seen when 
the plates were held at such an angle to the light that it cast pale 
shadows in the microscopic pits in the surfaces. They were not 
photographs, and photography did not grow out of them. 

120 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

While all this was going on in France, even more important 
things were happening in England. In 1833 William Henry Fox 
Talbot, a very remarkable country gentleman, was staying at 
Lake Como. He could not draw, but he wanted to make some 
pictures of the landscapes there, and so he tried to use a camera 
lucida. As in the case of many another man, the result of this was 
a great irritation. Talbot's mind turned to an old camera obscura 
that he had had many years before. While thinking about that he 
remembered 'the inimitable beauty' of the images he had seen in 
the camera obscura, and, to quote his own words, 'it was during 
these thoughts that the idea occurred to me ... how charming it 
would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to 
imprint themselves durably, and remain fixed upon the paper! 
And why should it not be possible? I asked myself.' When he got 
home to England in 1834 he started to work. He repeated the 
experiments of Wedgwood and Davy, and went on from them. 
By 1835 he had discovered how to get images on paper of things 
he saw in the camera obscura. In that year he took a minute photo- 
graph of a leaded window in his house, and was pleased to note that 
when examined with a magnifying glass it was possible to count 
each of the several hundred panes in the window. More than that 
he had discovered how to make his images somewhat permanent, 
and, most importantly, he had found a way of exactly repeating 
them as positives. To do this he simply waxed Ms paper photo- 
graph, and, using it as a negative, printed positives from it on 
paper as many as he wanted to make. 

He used the process to make pictures of buildings and land- 
scapes and pieces of sculpture and plants. These pictures he called 
"photogenic drawings'. At last the problem that had defeated the 
Greek botanists, and that had been responsible for the difficulties 
of many of their successors, was solved. Talbot not only had an 
exactly repeatable image, but one that did not require the dis- 
torting services of either a draughtsman or an engraver. In 1841 
he discovered that if, after making an exposure, he treated the 
exposed negative with a solution of gallic acid and silver nitrate, 

121 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

he could build up a very feeble, even an invisible, image into a 
strong one. He had discovered not only the latent image but the 
idea of developing or bringing it out. He called the results of his 
improved process 'calotypes', a word composed of two Greek 
words meaning 'beautiful images'. All these things taken together 
meant that Talbot had discovered the basic principles of photo- 
graphy as we know it today. 

The permanence of the photographic silver image was assured 
by the use, suggested by HerscheU, of what we call 'hypo' to 
dissolve out from the paper the silver salts that had not been 
affected by the light. Daguerre, when he learned of this, promptly 
adopted it for his process, but Talbot for a while kept on using his 
original solution of common salt, with the result that many of his 
early prints have faded away. Luckily, sharp photographs were 
taken of some of them before this happened. 

Hearing of Daguerre's secret process, Talbot, to secure priority, 
read a preliminary paper before the Royal Society on the 31st of 
January, 1839, i.e. more than six months before Daguerre made 
his public disclosure. The following month, Talbot gave the same 
audience a description of his process, and demonstrated that he 
had secured some permanency for his images. The title of his first 
paper is interesting in itself 'Some Account of the Art of Photo- 
genic Drawing, or the Process by which Natural Objects may be 
made to Delineate Themselves without the Aid of the Artist's 
Pencil'. In other words, he fully realized that these images which 
he made were not subject to the omissions, the distortions, and the 
subjective difficulties that are inherent in all pictures in which 
draughtsmanship plays a part. Here were exactly repeatable visual 
images made without any of the syntactical elements implicit in 
all hand made pictures. Had Talbot been an accomplished 
draughtsman instead of an incompetent one he would probably 
not have recognized this fact, even if he had discovered how to 
make the images. 

Immediately after the announcements by Talbot and Daguerre 
many other investigators flocked into the fields that had thus been 

122 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

opened up. The two processes were rapidly refined and improved. 
But it was not until the 1860's that photography caught up with 
daguerreotyping in the favour of the public, which was primarily 
interested in portraiture and liked the minute detail of the daguer- 
reotype, as well as its preciousness and fragility. The daguerreotype 
had stepped into the place previously held by the painted minia- 
ture. The calotype was used by D. O. Hill in 1843 to make what 
have become some of the most celebrated portraits that have been 
made in photography, but they did not then suit the public 
taste. 

The story of the development of photography is clouded by 
the fact that many of the workers kept their discoveries secret, that 
others did not bother to give them adequate publicity, and that 
many of the discoveries were made almost simultaneously. Local 
patriotism has played its part in the stories as told by the historians. 
The long and short of it, however, was that ways were swiftly 
found of sensitizing various colloids, such as albumen, collodion, 
and gelatine, which could be applied to paper and to glass. New 
chemicals were discovered with novel photographic qualities. The 
emulsions became much faster, and sensitive to more and more of 
the spectrum. Originally the glass plates had to be sensitized and 
then immediately exposed while still moist. But ways were found 
of making plates that could be used dry, and therefore could be 
made and stored until they were wanted. They were soon being 
made and sold on the market. The same thing happened to the 
paper. The crux of the matter, in the competition between calo- 
types and daguerreotypes, was the fact that the calotypes being 
printed from rough paper negatives on a rough paper, were unable 
to produce the minuteness of detail that was the distinguishing 
mark of the daguerreotype. It was not until the glass plate and the 
shiny colloid surfaced paper had enabled the photographers to get 
detail comparable to that of the daguerreotype, that the battle was 
won for the photograph. We can see here the same factors at work 
that in the past had played such a detennming role in the com- 
petition between the old graphic processes. Always the exactly 

123 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

repeatable image that gave the most detail in the same space won 
out, 

Seemingly the first book to be illustrated with actual photo- 
graphs was Fox Talbofs own The Pencil of Nature, which came 
out in 1844. Its illustrations were mounted calotypes. In 1847 
William Stirling's Annals of the Artists of Spain the book that 
discovered Greco, Velasquez, and Goya, to the English speaking 
world made its appearance. The very rare fourth volume, of 
which only twenty-five copies were printed, contained a series of 
calotypes by Talbot after paintings and prints. Because of its 
method of illustration it is to be regarded as the cornerstone of all 
modem artistic connoisseurship, for it contained the first exactly 
repeatable pictorial statements about works of art which could be 
accepted as visual evidence about things other than mere icono- 
graphy. It was no longer necessary to put faith in the accuracy of 
the observation and skill of the draughtsmen and the engravers. 
These reports were not only impersonal but they reached down 
into the personality of the artists who made the objects that were 
reproduced. 

The early photographs were in black, or brown, and white. 
The negatives were, as thephotographers say, 'blind' to the different 
colours of the spectrum except the blues and the violets as is still 
the case with our ordinary modern photographic papers. Gradu- 
ally, by the use of various stains, ways were discovered of making 
emulsions that were sensitive to the different colours of the spect- 
rum in approximately their black and white values as seen by the 
eye. Thus it became possible to make photographs that showed 
white clouds against the brilliant blue sky, and in which the reds 
were not represented by blacks. It was not until it became possible 
to develop negatives in the dark by the present familiar 'time and 
temperature* methods, and without constant inspection by the 
trying light of the dark room, that it became possible to use these 
very sensitive emulsions to their full extent. 

As early as 1810 Seebeck, in Germany, called attention to the 
fact that when a spectrum was thrown on a sheet of moist paper 

124 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

sensitized with chloride of silver the paper took colours that were 
different in the different bands of the spectrum. Seebeck's investi- 
gations were followed by those of HerscheU, in England, in 1839. 
In 1848, Becquerel, in France, succeeded in reproducing on a 
daguerreotype not only the colours of the spectrum but to some 
extent the colours of objects. It was not, however, until 1907 
that Lumiere, in France, introduced his method of making colour 
transparencies. It is only within the last few years that it has 
become possible to produce photographic prints in full colour. 

As I have already pointed out, Bolton, in England, about 1860, 
succeeded in getting a photograph of a work of art on the surface 
of a wood-block, which he then engraved. Until the end of the 
century in England and America wood-engraving over or through 
a photograph printed on the face of the block remained the typical 
way of reproducing drawings, paintings, and photographs, for use 
as illustrations in books and periodicals. It was not until after the 
turn of the present century that the making and printing of half- 
tones was sufficiently perfected for them to yield brilliant im- 
pressions without supplemental re-engraving with the engraver's 
tool. 

In 1839 Mungo Ponton, in England, discovered that when a 
coat of albumen on a sheet of paper was treated with bichromate 
of potassium any parts of the albumen that were hit by the light 
became hard and insoluble. Later, other experimenters found out 
that gelatine and other colloidal materials did the same thing. By 
mixing pigments with the bichromated gelatine it became possible 
to make photographic prints in any desired pigment. In the 1850's 
it was discovered that a coat of bichromated gelatine that had been 
exposed under a negative would hold printers ink on the parts that 
had been hardened by the light. Out of this came the first printing 
surfaces for the reproduction of photographs. They were what to- 
day we might call crude photolithographs. This technique was 
shortly followed by that which we caE coEotype. Next came that 
for the making of what today we caE *line blocks 9 , 

William Blake, in the 1790*s, had made relief etchings by 

125 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

drawing his design on the copper with dissolved etching ground, 
and after it had hardened, biting out the spaces between his lines 
with acid. He used the method in his Songs of Innocence and later 
on in his various Prophetic Books. A photographic 4 Hne block* of 
a line drawing is merely an adaptation of Blake's idea. The metal 
plates of the line blocks, from which the reproductions are printed, 
instead of having drawings made directly on them, are coated with 
some bichromated colloidal substance which hardens on exposure 
to light. The plate is exposed under a negative, after which it is 
treated in various ways, and then washed in water, which dissolves 
away the part of the coating that has not been hardened by the 
action of the light through the negative. It is said that Talbot was 
the first to do this. The plate is next treated with an acid-resisting 
substance which adheres to the remaining areas of the coating but 
not to the bare surface of the metal. It is then bitten in an acid bath 
which eats away the spaces between the lines. An edition of Pablo 
de Segovie, illustrated with line drawings by Daniel Vierge and 
published at Paris in 1881, has been said to be the first book illus- 
trated with photomechanical relief etchings, but there is little doubt 
that the process had been well tried out before being used in such a 
book as that. 

The greatest and most valuable of all the photomechanical 
processes, however, is that known as relief half-tone. Half-tones, 
with which we are all familiar in the common reproductions of 
photographs in our books, magazines, and newspapers, may be 
regarded as inverse aquatints made in such a way that they can be 
printed as relief blocks locked up in the printer's formes with type. 
It is in them that the aquatint with which Goya made his prints has 
come to its final great fruition. 

In aquatint the irregularly shaped minute white dots are sur- 
rounded by wider or narrower lanes of ink the white is always 
the solid white of the paper and the ink always a solid colour of 
the same tone or intensity. The appearance of changing tones is 
secured by the varying balance between the whites and the blacks, 
which themselves are always of the same unvarying tones. 

126 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

It occurred to Talbot that it would be possible to make a photo- 
graphic aquatint plate that could be used in the etching press. It 
also occurred to him that the dots in his aquatints would be more 
regular and dependable if they were made by the use of a screen 
instead of by the necessarily irregular methods of powdering the 
surface or flowing a solution of resin over it. In 1852 he took out 
a patent for using what he called a screen made either of textile 
or of ruled lines on glass. His scheme was to coat a plate with a 
bichromated layer of suitable colloid and then expose it to the 
light, first under a screen and then under a pictorial negative. 
Where the light came through the screen it would harden the 
coating in bigger or smaller dots according to the amount of light 
that came through the negative. Where either the screen or the 
negative kept the light from coming through, the coaling would 
remain soluble. After the soluble coating was washed away it was 
an easy matter to bite the plate with acid in such a way that the 
lines between the dots were sunk below the surface of the plate. 
Talbot sent some prints made from such a printing surface to 
Paris in 1853. 

Talbofs patent envisaged the making of intaglio printing 
surfaces, but the same technique was applicable to the making of 
relief printing surfaces. The early commercial half-tones, however, 
were made not with a screen but with rather a coarse aquatint 
grain. Easily available examples are to be found in some of the art 
journals of the early 1880*s, such as L 9 Artiste, in which they were 
used to reproduce drawings by the masters. It would have been 
impossible to achieve comparable results by any of the older hand 
made methods of making relief blocks for book illustration. Poor 
as the blocks were, the only personal qualities visible in them were 
those of the men who made the drawings that were reproduced. 

In the 1870's various experimenters began to use screens made 
of glass ruled with parallel lines, which sometimes were straight 
and sometimes were waved. This method, however, had its dis- 
tinct drawbacks and limitations. In 1880 a New York newspaper 
ran the first cross-line half-tone to appear in a daily newspaper. 

127 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

It was made through, a screen of textile and was very rough and 
imperfect. In 1886 Ives, of Philadelphia, patented his idea of the 
modem ruled cross-line half-tone screen which he produced by 
taking two sheets of glass, each of which was covered with ruled 
parallel lines, and fastening them together face to face in such a 
manner that their lines ran at right angles to each other. In 1892 
Levy patented his method of ruling the lines on sheets of glass in 
such a way that the screens became both cheap and practicable. 
Before the outbreak of the first world war the ruled cross-line half- 
tone screen was in common use all over the world. The older 
generation of reproductive wood-engravers had nothing to do but 
die out, their hard-won art and craft a victim of what the engineers 
so simply call technological obsolescence. 

The great importance of the half-tone lay in its syntactical dif- 
ference from the older hand made processes of printing pictures in 
printer's ink. In the old processes, the report started by a syntactical 
analysis of the thing seen, which was followed by its symbolic state- 
ment in the language of drawn lines. This translation was then 
translated into the very different analysis and syntax of the process. 
The lines and dots in the old reports were not only insistent in 
claiming visual attention, but they, their character, and their sym- 
bolism of statement, had been determined more by the two super- 
imposed analyses and syntaxes than by the particularities of the 
thing seen. In the improved half-tone process there was no pre- 
liminary syntactical analysis of the thing seen into lines and dots, 
and the ruled lines and dots of the process had fallen below the 
threshold of normal vision. Such lines and dots as were to be seen 
in the report had been provided by the thing seen and were not 
those of any syntactical analysis. If there remained the same com- 
plete transposition of colour and loss of scale that had marked the 
older processes, the preliminary syntactical analyses and their 
effects had been done away with, and the transposition of colours 
was uniform. At kst men had discovered a way to make visual 
reports in printer's ink without syntax, and without the distorting 
analyses of form that syntax necessitated. Today we are so accus- 

128 



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80. Portion of an etching of the Parthenon Theseus, from R. Lawrence's 
Elgin Marbles, London, 1818. Reduced. 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

tomed to this that we think little of it, but it represents one of the 
most amazing discoveries that man has ever made a cheap and 
easy means of symbolic communication without syntax. 

Great as was the change brought about by the pervasion of 
the Bewickian wood-engraving in the presses of the printers and 
the techniques of their use, that which was enforced by the half- 
tones was even greater. Paper-making underwent a very complete 
change, becoming ever more smooth and even in thickness. It is 
interesting to observe how few people realize the meaning of the 
fact that one of our modern line or half-tone blocks is treated as 
though it were a piece of type once it begins to be printed from. It 
is not only the largest piece of type the printer has to cope with, 
but from a strictly mechanical point of view the most difficult one 
that he uses. The half-tone may have anything from seventy-five 
to more than three hundred dots to a linear inch, each of which 
has its particular and essential size and shape that must be kept 
without change in the inking and printing, if the tints printed from 
the block are to be properly graduated and smooth. The printer has 
to adjust all his techniques of printing to the demands made by 
these particular printing surfaces. Had it not been for these 
demands many of the modern type printing processes would never 
have reached their present day mechanical perfection. It is all very 
well to talk about the pressmanship exhibited in the early printed 
books and in the books that come in limited editions from the 
modern special presses, but actually the pressmanship exhibited in 
any one of our modern large dictionaries or in many of our con- 
temporary newspapers, as for example, in The Times, of London, 
and in that of New York, is very much more remarkable. 

We have seen how the older type presses were unable to cope 
with the problem presented by the larger wood-blocks that began 
to be made about 1820. The photomechanical blocks made a much 
greater demand for strength and precision than had been made by 
any of their predecessors. The design and the tooling of the old 
presses was loose and inexact and the thickness of the papers used 
was irregular and varying. To secure an even impression of the 

p.v.c. 129 L 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

paper on the blocks and types it was necessary to interpose 
between the paper and the platen Le. the smooth surface of 
metal that squeezed the paper down on to the inked printing sur- 
faces a blanket or felt that took up all the little irregularities and 
maladjustments of the machine, the blocks, and the paper. Gradu- 
ally the makers of printing presses and of paper discovered how to 
make them into instruments of a precision so great that the 
blankets (or soft pack) could be done away with. The problem was 
complicated by the need to run the presses at the high speeds 
required by the large sizes of modern editions. We are all aware of 
the difference between the accuracy with which the old horse- 
drawn vehicles were made and that which is essential to the motor- 
car, but very few of us are aware that a similar change took place 
in the mechanics of printing a generation before the motor vehicle 
came into common use. 

With the gradual pervasion of the use of photomechanical pro- 
cesses of reproduction from relief blocks, first of line drawings, 
and then, through the half-tone, of photographs and wash draw- 
ings and paintings, it became obvious that most of the work that 
had been done in the past by the painters, draughtsmen, engravers 
and etchers, had basically been informative or reportorial rather 
than artistic in purpose, and that the new pictorialprocesses filled the 
pictorially informative needs far more accurately, far faster, and far 
more cheaply, than was possible with the other, older, techniques. 

In spite of this evident fact, the tradition and the values of the 
past held on. The tradition said that engravings and etchings on 
copper and engravings on wood were not only the nice ways to 
reproduce pictures, but, more than that, the best ways. The fact 
that the old hand-made methods of reproduction never gave any 
indication of the surfaces and the tool marks in the originals was 
not regarded as of importance by the adherents of the tradition. 
I can well remember difficult conversations held less than thirty- 
five years ago with persons very highly placed in American art 
museums, who, still thinking in terms of the so recent, but already 
so dead, past, insisted that the best and the only really dignified 

130 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

way to reproduce important paintings and sculpture was to have 
them drawn by recognized artists and then etched or engraved by 
recognized etchers or engravers. One of these old fashioned gentle- 
men had actually, for a while before the first world war, been able 
seriously to hamper the library of his institution by his insistent 
and powerful belief that half-tones and shiny paper were nasty 
and should not be allowed to disgrace its shelves. 

One of the ever recurrent arguments in the age long discussion 
and comparison of the different arts was the idea that, while words 
could give a sense of movement and development, the picture by 
its very essence was confined to a single moment. But photography 
was to change all that so violently that today it is to photography 
that we turn for all our studies and analyses of movement and 
action. There must be many hundreds of thousands of cameras in 
this country that, to use photographic jargon, can 'stop* a human 
figure in action at any point in its movement by taking so fast a 
picture of it that it appears to be perfectly still no matter how fast 
it is moving. 

Oddly, the fastest way there is of taking photographs was, 
perhaps, the first fast one to be devised. As early as 1851, Talbot 
fastened a copy of a newspaper to a wheel that could be made to 
revolve with great speed. He focussed his camera on the news- 
paper, started the wheel to revolving, darkened the room, opened 
his camera, and took his exposure by the light of an electric spark. 
So far as we human beings are concerned the electric spark is 
pretty nearly the absolute in speed. When Talbot developed his 
negative he found that his exposure had been so much faster than 
the motion of the wheel that in the photograph the type of the 
newspaper could be seen *every letter being perfectly distincf . 
The latest developments of this method of what is now called 
stroboscopic photography have shown us the remarkable con- 
figurations which occur, for example, when a drop of milk falls 
into a saucer of milk or a golf club hits the ball. Photographs are 
essential to our studies of the air currents set up by projectiles and 
supersonic aircraft. 

131 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

But fast single photographs only show the configuration at a 
single moment, so that it appears to be frozen. Recourse was there- 
fore had to the old fashioned idea of the zoetrope, a toy in which 
a series of hand-made pictures were arranged on a drum which was 
then rapidly revolved. The pictures on the revolving drum melted 
into one another in human vision so that they gave the appearance 
of motion. The trick was, therefore, to get a series of photographs 
taken very fast and in very close succession. At first this was done 
by using a battery of cameras so arranged with a timing mechanism 
that their exposures were taken extremely close together in time. 
Muybridge was, perhaps, the first to use this method for a detailed 
study and analysis of the motions of men and animals. His investi- 
gations began in 1872, and his first set of photographs to be 
published came out in 1 878, At least as early as 1 879 he had devised 
what he called the zoopraxiscope and combined it with an oxy- 
hydrogen light and a projection machine, in such a way that he was 
able to give extremely short 'movies' of men and animals in action. 
The idea, however, did not become practical until some years 
after Eastman, of Rochester, had in the 1890's devised methods 
of coating long strips of celluloid with a photographic emulsion 
for use in hand cameras. 

By early in this century the moving picture in a very primitive 
form had begun to take a place in popular entertainment. At first 
one dropped a coin into a slot and peered through a peep-hole in a 
contraption to see a few seconds of moving picture. Nice people 
in those days regarded the thing as somehow beneath the con- 
sideration of serious persons just as many of them did the motor- 
car. It took some time for the technique to be developed to such 
an extent that it became possible to give shows in theatres. Today 
it is not only 'big business' but the technique has taken its recog- 
nized place in many scientific laboratories, and it is used in 
educational institutions for teaching. The first movies were 'silent', 
then someone devised the 'sound track*, which made it possible 
by photographic means to reproduce not only the figures and 
n of the prsons represented but what they said or sang. This 

132 



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the Monument du Costume^ Paris, 1777. Enlarged. 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

completely changed the technique of the movie drama and made 
possible, for all sorts of purposes, such a recording of the faces, 
figures, action, and speech of men as had previously been un- 
dreamed of. Incidentally, the sound track can be changed without 
changing the photography of the action, so that the same movie 
with the same actors can be produced in as many languages as are 
desired, by 'dubbing in' different sound tracks. This has made 
possible a study of many things in linguistics that had previously 
been difficult of access. Among the amusing things it has brought 
out is that one of the most exacting problems the photographer in 
the studio has to cope with is the fact that the same things said in 
different languages take different times to say. Spanish is almost 
as fast as English. French is materially slower. And German takes 
a much longer time. Due allowances have to be made for this when 
'shooting' the original action *on the lot'. Today movies are made 
in full colour, as are also photographs and process reproductions 
of views and objects. 

Daguerreotypes were taken through a microscope as early as 
1839. Today microphotography is a regular proceeding in almost 
all laboratories, from those of the biologist to those of the metal- 
lurgist. It is said that Dr. Draper of New York was the first to take 
a daguerreotype of the moon. He did this in 1840, but it was too 
small to be of practical use. In 1865 a practically useful photograph 
of it was finally achieved. Today, at the great observatories, 
practically all the observations are made by photographic means. 
In actual fact, the enormous telescopes are merely camera lenses. 

The light waves or rays at either end of the visible spectrum 
affect the photographic emulsions. Talbot was aware of this and, 
although he had no means of carrying his idea into practice, he 
imagined that photographs could be taken in complete visual 
darkness without the use of what we physiologically recognize as 
light. He called attention to this possibility as early as 1844. To- 
day it is common practice to take photographs with the infra-red 
rays, which not only work in the dark, but penetrate through 
coatings of varnish that deface and cover old paintings and go 

133 



PICTORIAL STATEMENT WITHOUT SYNTAX 

through haze so that pictures of far-distant landscapes can be 
made. The infra-red rays are in regular use in hospitals, as are also 
the so-called X-rays. In 1895 Roentgen, in Germany, thanks to a 
lucky accident which he had the wit to follow up, discovered that 
it was possible to take shadowgraphs of things that were invisible 
to the eye because they were deep under the surfaces of things. The 
X-ray machine and technique have today become essential parts of 
the routine in hospitals, doctors* offices, art museums, and metal- 
lurgical shops. 

Thus photography from being merely another way of procuring 
or making images of things already seen by our eyes, has become 
a means to ocular awareness of things that our eyes can never see 
directly. It has become the necessary tool for all visual comparison 
of things that are not side by side, and for all visual knowledge of 
the literally unseeable unseeable whether because too small, too 
fast, or hidden under surfaces, and because of the absence of 
light. Not only has it vastly extended the gamut of our visual 
knowledge, but through its reproduction in the printing press, it 
has effected a very complete revolution in the ways we use our 
eyes and, especially, in the kinds of things our minds permit our 
eyes to tell us. 

It has taken a hundred years of slow progress in the technology 
to produce this result, which, except for the flurry of excitement 
that accompanied the first announcements by Talbot and Daguerre, 
has come into being by such gradual steps that few people are very 
much aware of it. We take its results so much for granted that we 
never think of the situation before there was photography. 

Thus we find ourselves in the peculiar dilemma of having a 
technical knowledge and capacity that are far in advance of many 
of our settled, accepted modes of thought and valuation, which 
have remained just as they were before even the initial steps were 
taken towards photography and are based on notions that in many 
respects are incompatible with its modern developments. I know 
that this is true in what is called art, and I have a suspicion that 
it is true in much of academic philosophy also. 

134 



VII 

NEW REPORTS AND NEW VISION 
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 



AT the end of the nineteenth century photography had 
been known in one or another of its forms for sixty 
years, and some of the photomechanical processes for 
at least half that time. The traditional graphic processes 
had been defeated on most of what had been peculiarly and essenti- 
ally their own ground the making of exactly repeatable pictorial 
statements about the shapes and surfaces of things. The change had 
come about so slowly and gradually that, after the first explosion 
of interest and excitement which accompanied the announcements 
of Talbot and Daguerre in 1839, very few people were aware of 
what was taking place under, and especially in, their eyes. For a 
long time photographers were laughed at good-naturedly and were 
one of the stock subjects for jokes and caricatures. Slowly, as the 
community itself began to take photographs with hand cameras, 
there was no joke left because the photographer was everybody. 
As so many times before, men were doing something long before 
they knew what they were actually doing. 

"The photograph and its attendant processes took over at one 

135 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

and the same time two very different utilitarian functions of the 
graphic processes that previously had never been clearly dif- 
ferentiated. One of these was the reporting of portraits, views, and 
of what may be called news. The other was the recording of 
documents, curios, and works of art of all kinds. Where the re- 
quirements of the first of these functions could be and still were 
on occasion fulfilled by the old techniques, the other had been 
taken over irretrievably by photography, for the photograph made 
it possible for the first time in history to get such a visual record 
of an object or a work of art that it could be used as a means to 
study many of the qualities of the particular object or work of 
art itself. Until photography came into common use there had 
been no way of making pictures of objects that could serve as a 
basis for connoisseurship of the modern type, that is for the study 
of objects as particulars and not as undifferentiated members of 
classes. The photograph in its way did as much for the study of art 
as the microscope had done for the study of biology. 

Up to that time very few people had been aware of the dif- 
ference between pictorial expression and pictorial communication 
of statements of fact. The profound difference between creating 
something and making a statement about the quality and character 
of something had not been perceived. The men who did these 
things had gone to the same art schools and learned the same 
techniques and disciplines. They were all classified as artists and 
the public accepted them all as such, even if it did distinguish 
between those it regarded as good and as poor artists. The dif- 
ference between the two groups of artists was generally considered 
to be merely a matter of their comparative skill. They all drew and 
they all made pictures. But photography and its processes quietly 
stepped in and by taking over one of the two fields for its own 
made the distinction that the world had failed to see. 

Hie blow fell first on the heads of the artists painters, 
draughtsmen, and engravers who had made factual detailed 
informational pictures. The photograph filled the functions of 
such pictures and filled them so much better and with so much 

136 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

greater accuracy and fullness of detail that there was no com- 
parison. For many purposes the drawing, as for instance in such a 
science as anatomy, preserved its utility because it could schematic- 
ally abstract selected elements from a complex of forms and show 
them by themselves, which the photograph could not do because 
it unavoidably took in all of the complex. The drawing, therefore, 
maintained its place as a means of making abstractions while it 
lost its place as a means of representing concretions. The ground 
was cut from under the feet not only of the humble workaday 
factual illustrators of books and periodicals but of artists like 
Meissonier and Menzel, who had built up pre-photographic 
reputations by their amazing skill in the minute delineation of 
such things as buttons, gaiters, and military harness for man and 
beast. An etcher like Jacquemart had gained a world-wide reputa- 
tion for his ability to render the textures and sheens of precious 
objects, such as^ porcelains, glass, and metal work but when it 
was discovered that the photographic processes did all that in- 
finitely more accurately than Jacquemart could, it was also realized 
that Jacquemart had been merely a reporter of works of art and 
not a maker of them, no matter how extraordinary his technical 
skill. The devastation caused by the photograph rapidly spread 
through all the gamut of the merely sentimental or informational 
picture, from the gaudy view of the Bay of Naples or the detailed 
study of peasants and cows to the most lowly advertisement for 
a garment or a kitchen gadget. What was more, by 1914, the 
periodicals had begun to be so full of the photographic pictures 
that the public was never able to get them out of its eyes. 

The photograph was actually making the distinction that 
Michael Angelo had tried to point out to the Marchioness and her 
companions in the conversation that was related by Francesco da 
Hollanda 'The painting of Flanders, Madame . . . will generally 
satisfy any devout person more than the painting of Italy, which 
will never cause him to drop a single tear, but that of Flanders 
will cause him to shed many; this is not owing to the vigour and 
goodness of that painting, but to the goodness of such devout 

137 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

person. . . . They paint in Flanders only to deceive the external 
eye, things that gladden you and of which you cannot speak ill, 
and saints and prophets. Their painting is of stuffs, bricks, and 
mortar, the grass of the fields, the shadows of trees, and bridges 
and rivers, which they call landscapes, and little figures here and 
there; and all this, although it may appear good to some eyes, is 
in truth done without symmetry or proportion, without care in 
selecting or rejecting, and finally without any substance or verve/ 1 
Michael Angelo was attempting to point out that the pictorial 
report of things which people enjoy in stories and in actual life is^ 
not the same thing as design. 

Inescapably built into every photograph were a great amount 
of detail and, especially, the geometrical perspective of central 
projection and section. The accuracy of both depended merely 
on the goodness of the lens. At first the public had talked a great 
deal about what it called photographic distortion which only 
meant that the camera had not been taught, as human beings had 
been, to disregard perspective in most of its seeing. But the world, 
as it became acclimated, or, to use the psychologist's word, condi- 
tioned, to photographic images, gradually, ceased to talk about 
photographic distortion, and today the phrase is rarely heard. 
So far has this gone that today people actually hunt for that dis- 
tortion, and, except in pictures of themselves, enjoy it when found. 
A short fifty years ago most of the 'shots* of Michael Angelo 9 s 
sculpture that were shown in the movie called The Titan, would 
have been decried for their distortion, but today they are praised. 
Thus by conditioning its audience, the photograph became the 
norm for the appearance of everything. It was not long before 
men began to think photographically, and thus to see for them- 
selves things that previously it had taken the photograph to reveal 
to their astonished and protesting eyes. Just as nature had once 
imitated art, so now it began to imitate the picture made by the 
camera. Willy nilly many of the painters began to follow suit. 

1 Quoted from Charles Holroyd's Michael Angelo Buonarroti, London, 
1903, by peimission of Gerald Duckworth & Co., Ltd. 

138 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

So long as the old graphic processes provided the only means 
of making exactly repeatable visual reports, men were always 
tempted to hypostasize something behind those reports that they 
could neither see, nor describe, nor report, but which was more 
real than the things actually contained in their reports. It was 
this unreachable, unknowable, vraie verite, that all too often they 
tried to talk and argue about when they talked and thought 
about works of art with which they had not immediate first-hand 
acquaintance. When people begin to talk about nobility, grandeur, 
sublimity, ideality, and all that group of purely emotive verbal 
obfuscations, as qualities of art, the appreciation of art has become 
a sort of verbalist intoxication unrelated to particulars a situation 
that is observable in the talk and writing of many persons who read 
books about art, or follow verbalist doctrines or party lines about 
it, instead of surrendering themselves to sharp-sighted first-hand 
acquaintance with it. It is interesting to notice how dry and tongue- 
tied so many of the people are who have had long and intimate 
first-hand acquaintance with works of art as compared with the 
volubility in abstractions of the persons who know about art 
through words and verbalist notions. Seen in its concretion, the 
greater a work of art is, the more it is a bundle, not of similarities 
to other things, but of differences from them. All that words can 
deal with, however, are similarities. The simple reason for all this 
is that words, with the exception of the proper names, relation 
words, and syntactical devices, are mere conventional symbols for 
similarities. Although differences are just as perceptible as simi- 
larities, the inability of words to cope with them has given rise 
to the notion held by many self-consciously hard-headed persons 
that talk about art is merely an attempt to deal with the ineffable, 
a thing that for them is completely laughable. But that these 
differences are not statable in words does not mean that they are 
ineffable, for they are clearly communicable in non-verbal ways. 
While the photograph is far from being a perfect report, it can and 
does in practice tell a great many more things than any of the 
old graphic processes was able to, and, most importantly, when 

139 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

two photographs of two different things that are very much alike 
are laid side by side, they enable us to gain awarenesses of differ- 
ences that defy description either in words or in any of the old 
graphic processes that preceded photography. 

In order to grasp the broad meaning of the photograph as 
record or report of work of art or curio it is necessary to look back 
over the nineteenth century, and to take account of some things 
that happened in it, apparently completely outside the territory 
that photography was taking over. I refer to the astonishing 
gathering together in the great capitals of Europe of the arts and 
crafts of the distant past and the far away, which was one of the 
distinguishing events of the century. It was greatly hastened, if not 
begun, by Napoleon, when, as part of his political propaganda, he 
systematically looted the countries his armies invaded, and brought 
back to Paris the results of his efforts. He did this not so much 
because of the artistic importance of his loot, as because it enabled 
him to demonstrate to both France and the world that he had been 
able to assemble in Paris the objects held most holy by the peoples 
of Europe. There was no comparable way of symbolizing the 
prowess of the Empire and the French. It was the nearest thing in 
modem times to the triumphs of the Roman generals and procon- 
suls, in which the kings, the high priests, and the most sacred objects 
of the conquered had been paraded before the Roman populace. 

In the eighteenth century hardly anyone took seriously the art 
of the Middle Ages, let alone of the Dark Ages, except a few 
students who were interested in faagiography, iconology, and the 
lore of the local churches. A few dilettantes, such as Horace Wai- 
pole, were fashionably and perversely amused by the view from 
the Castle of Otranto, but for most of them, I think it can be 
said, the Gothic merely provided a relatively cheap way of being 
smart and different from other people. The rich who had received 
classical educations went in sentimentally for classical sculptures, 
which in practice meant Roman copies, either of the late Republic 
or Empire, or even of the eighteenth century itself, in which 
the Roman craftsmen so surprisingly and obligingly were able to 

140 




83. The same portion of the finished state of the same engraving after 
Moreau le jeune. Enlarged. 




84. A modern cross-line half-tone block after a photograph of a portion of 
Rembrandt's painting of 'An Old Woman Cutting her Nails'. 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

supply the northern nabobs with the very 'antiques' they were 
in search of. No one knew the difference between a Greek original 
and the ancient and modem imitation, as was demonstrated in 
such different ways by both Winckelmann, the founder of classical, 
archaeology, who accepted fakes, old and new, and John Thomas 
Smith, who, in writing the life of Nollekens, told how that sculptor 
in his youth had paid his way by making modern ones. If we look 
at the pictorial reproductions of classical art that were available 
to collectors in the eighteenth century and much of the nineteenth 
century, we can discover not only many of the reasons for their 
blindness but the reasons they took their interest in the objects 
they actually collected. 

The art of ancient Egypt was practically unknown until Napo- 
leon made his armed descent into that country. He took with him 
a group of scientists, archaeologists, and artists, among whom 
was that very curious and interesting person, Vivant Denon 
perhaps the first man to have a really catholic taste in art in our 
modern sense of the word. The difference between the seeing 
Denons and the posturing Walpoles of this world is rarely dis- 
cussed, but it is very important. A great cargo of ancient Egyptian 
artistic and archaeological loot that Napoleon shipped for Paris 
had the misfortune to meet a British warship, with the result that, 
instead of going to Marseille or Toulon and thence to the Louvre, 
it went up the Thames and came to rest in the British Museum. 
Within a few years afterwards that institution also acquired, though 
in less exciting manner, the Elgin marbles and the friezes from 
Phigaleia, that were so remarkably unlike the classical sculpture 
which had been fashionable during the eighteenth century that 
some of the best judges of the day declared the Elgin marbles to 
be late work of the time of Trajan. If we are honest with ourselves, 
the Venus of Melos is a masterpiece not so much of ancient Greek 
sculpture as of the taste of the eighteen-thirties. 

The French Revolution and the wars that accompanied and 
followed it caused many of the great church and monastic treasures 
to be thrown upon the market, with the result that for the first 

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NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

time in many generations there was available to the collector 
and the curious a flood of mediaeval works of art of all kinds, and 
of manuscripts and early printed books. The opening up to the 
curiosity hunter and the archaeologist of Greece, Egypt, and the 
Levant, was followed in turn by that of the Near East, and that in 
turn by that of the Far East and of southern Asia. Last of all to 
be recognized as works of art were the objects from America, 
Polynesia, and Africa, which had begun to accumulate in Europe 
as the result of exploration and armed adventure. The primary 
interest of those who brought most of these things back to London 
and Paris was not their artistic value but their curiosity. 

In any case, nothing like this amassing of exotic objects had 
ever been known. One of the principal reasons it was so effective 
was that it was done by men who were so ignorant of art and taste 
that they gathered together everything of every kind without 
consideration of what the professors of art and the dilettantes 
might think of them. If the collections had been made in the field 
by the artistically educated of the day, very little that ultimately 
has been of great artistic interest would have been brought back. 
One can but imagine what such a pontiff as Ruskin would have 
acquired on the Guinea Coast or the islands of the Pacific. 

So long as there were available only the traditional graphic 
processes of pictorial reproduction and publication the publication 
of all these strange things was not only very small in volume but 
very expensive and slow, and, worse than either, amazingly un- 
truthful and distorted. As was inevitable, the print-makers ration- 
alized their representations, and their rationality was that of their 
period. Also they liked to show what they imagined the objects 
looked like before they had been damaged or broken, and so they 
filled in the missing parts in their pictures out of the treasury of 
their ignorance, just as Thorwaldsen 'restored* the marbles from 
Aegina so thoroughly that he turned them into monuments not of 
Greek art but of early nineteenth-century taste. This desire to 
show ancient objects not as they have actually come down to 
us but as they ought to be, can be easily observed by attentive 

142 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

visitors to almost any of our art museums. It flourishes most in 
those very collections or departments which take such great pride 
in their scholarship and the scientific quality of their knowledge 
that they look down on mere aestheticism. There is curiously little 
difference between much of the restoration done in museums and 
the faking done by the unregenerate. 

The gradual introduction of photographic process in the last 
thirty years of the nineteenth century effected a most radical 
change in the methods of reproduction and publication of works of 
art. Not only did the reproductions become cheap, but they were 
dependable. Perhaps as easy a way as any to perceive this is to 
compare the illustrations of ancient and exotic art in the art books 
of the 1820's and 1830's with those in the art books of the 1870's 
and 1880's, and both with those in any cheapest little contem- 
porary pamphlet or magazine. Until long after the middle of the 
century art books were much more a means by which the very 
rich could show their snobbishness than a means to convey truthful 
knowledge to the public. Actually the cheap modern photographic 
picture postcard contains so much more valid and accurate infor- 
mation than any of the expensive engravings and lithographs of 
the period of snobbery that there is no comparison between them. 
In this way photography introduced to the world a vast body of 
design and forms that previously had been unknown to it. 

Objects can be seen as works of art only in so far as they have 
visible surfaces. The surfaces contain the brush marks, the chisel 
strokes, and the worked textures, the sum totals of which are 
actually the works of art. But the hand made prints after objects 
were never able to report about their surfaces. If the surface of a 
painting represented hair and skin, the print after the painting also 
represented hair and skin, but in its own forms and techniques 
which bore no resemblance to those embedded in the surface of 
the painting. In other words, the engraved representation of a 
painting was confined to generalized, abstract, reports about 
iconography and composition, 

The magic of the work of art resides in the way its surface has 

143 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

been handled, just as the magic of a poem lies in the choice and 
arrangement of Its words. The most exciting and the most bore* 
some paintings can have the same objective subject matter. Their 
differences are subjective, and these subjective differences can only 
be seen in the choice and manipulation of the paint, that is in their 
actual surfaces. If Manet and Bouguereau had painted the same 
model in the same Light, with the same accessories, and the same 
iconographical composition, any engravings made from them by 
the same engraver would have been remarkably alike. In a way the 
engravings were attempts, as the philosophers might say, to repre- 
sent objects by stripping them of their actual qualities and sub- 
stituting others for them an undertaking which is logically 
impossible. The photograph, to the contrary, despite all its de- 
ficiencies, was able to give detailed reports about the surfaces, 
with all their bosses, hollows, ridges, trenches, and rugosities, so 
that they could be seen as traces of the creative dance of the artist's 
hand, and thus as testimony of both the ability and the deliberate 
creative will that went to their making. 

The result of this is never referred to, but it was very important 
in the formation of opinion and values. Thus, to take a particular 
case: the engravings, saying nothing about surfaces, could easily 
be read, and actually were read, by a world soaked in the pseudo- 
classical Renaissance tradition of forms, as reporting that the 
sculpture of the early and middle Christian periods was merely 
a set of debased forms representing the inability of a degraded 
society and its incompetent artisans to hold to classical ideals and 
precedents. 

With the advent of photography, however, it became impos- 
sible to maintain the opinions based on the engravings, for 
photography gave detailed reports about the surfaces of the 
Christian sculpture, with all their sharp incident, and revealed 
the skilful, wilful, way in which they had been worked. It thus 
became obvious that those works of art represented not any 
degeneracy of workmanship but the emergence and volitional 
expression of new and very different intellectual and emotional 

144 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

values, and, therefore, had the right to be judged on their own 
merits and not from the point of view of the very ideals and 
assumptions which they challenged and against which they were 
engaged in an unrelenting warfare. From Winckelmann to the 
present day, the lack of expression and personality of the figures 
of classical art has been commented upon. It is the basis on which 
the archaeologists have built their claims for what they describe 
as the ideality of classical art. Christian art, however, in conformity 
with the faith it represents, developed the expression and per- 
sonality of its figures and made deliberate sacrifices to that end. 
The photographic reports of surfaces made visible the volition 
with which this was accomplished. 

Within the closed world of classical art itself the introduction 
of photography in place of the old engraved reports has had 
remarkable results. The inability of the engraving to report about 
surfaces and its restriction to iconography and composition made 
possible, in the early years of the last century, a sort of aesthetic 
transubstantiation. The discovery and bringing to western Europe 
of examples of Greek sculpture revealed that the actual qualities 
of fine Greek work were very different from those of the Roman 
copies with which Europe had been familiar up to that time, but 
the standard vocabularies, like the engravings which then provided 
the only available means of reproduction, were incapable of stating 
the differences. The result was that the world fitted the newly 
discovered qualities into the critical literary tradition and vocabu- 
lary of both words and pictures that had been built up about the 
so very different qualities of the Roman copies. No better example 
of the tyranny of the old methods of reproduction and their linear 
nets and syntaxes on the art of seeing can be desired than the 
dominance through the nineteenth century and into the present 
one of ideas and critical jargon that had their origin in the de- 
ficiencies alike of the Roman copies and the engravings after them. 
It is only within very recent years that the world has been able to 
see that the primitive Greek marbles and small bronzes were really 
very wonderful works of art. The current substitution of pfaoto- 

p.v.a 145 M 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

graphs of Greek pots for the familiar engraved and lithographic 
reproductions of dull routine modern drawings after them has 
brought about a notable change in the appreciation and under- 
standing of their qualities. 

Thus, luckily for the exotic and most of the early Christian and 
mediaeval objects, they were thought so lacking in beauty in the 
days of the engraved visual statement, that comparatively few of 
them were reproduced until after photography had taken over the 
task of reproducing works of art. Thanks to this they escaped 
the perversion both of form and of critical ideas that inevitably 
accompanied the older methods of reproduction. 

A rarely mentioned result of this shift away from engraved 
reproductions is that the only prephotographic catalogues raisonnes 
of works of art that are still of use and constantly referred to are 
those of prints themselves. The photograph has antiquated all the 
rest. Its pervasion opened up the other subjects to visual scholar- 
ship as distinct from the scholarship of the texts and archives, and 
there began that flood of photographically illustrated catalogues 
and special studies that has enabled the vast masses of material 
to be reduced to order. It is astonishing to notice how few of the 
books, for example, about old Italian painting that were written 
before the eighteen-eighties are still referred to for qualitative 
judgments as distinct from purely archival matters. The rewriting 
of the inventory of old Italian paintings, that was made possible 
by photography, was so exciting that for several generations con- 
noisseurs and students devoted their major efforts to problems 
of attribution, and even devised aesthetic theories which reduced 
subject matter and its imaginative treatment to a very subordinate 
and unimportant position. However, today, now that so much has 
been done on the new inventory, the special students of the younger 
generation are finding a new interest in iconography the dis- 
covery of what it was that the old pictures illustrated. 

Thus, while on the one hand the photograph enslaved a pre- 
ponderant portion of the population to the photographic versions 
of natural forms, the photographic reproductions of curios and 

146 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

works of art emancipated an important group of people from the 
traditional and academic points of view. In many places, but 
especially in Paris, with its artistic confidence in itseif and its faith 
that all had not yet been said and discovered in art, very intelli- 
gent men came to give serious thought to the aesthetic and other 
problems raised by these strange forms from the past and the far 
away. What took place in this group may perhaps be indicated to 
some extent by the mid-century story about Baudelaire and the 
naval officer. The officer had been away from Paris for a number 
of years on one of the exploring expeditions to the South Seas, 
and had brought back with him a great many strange objects. 
Baudelaire went to see him. Baudelaire was holding and looking 
very hard at a little carving when the officer, desiring him to look 
at something else which he regarded as of greater interest, referred 
to the object in Baudelaire's hand as 'merely a negro totem*. 
Instead of putting it down and looking at the other object, Baude- 
laire held up his hand and said, 'Take care, my friend, it is, perhaps, 
the true God.' 

The formal academic art teaching and doctrine of the nine- 
teenth century had been based on ideas that can be traced back to 
the Renaissance in Italy, and were full of assumptions that were 
believed in as indubitable truths. Some of these indubitable 
truths received very hard blows during the second half of the 
century, as for example, when the palettes were lightened, when 
pleineaireism made its first tentative appearance, when colours 
were broken down into their constituent shades, and when account 
began to be taken of such things as that shadows were very rarely 
or never brown. Many of these new ideas were based on notions 
derived from popular books on the physics of light and were 
defended as being highly scientific. Between the sharp-eyed nota- 
tion of detail that was the mark of the English pre-Raphaelite 
painters and the new French interest in atmosphere and the en- 
velope, as typified, for example, in the work of Claude Monet, 
there was little basic difference, great as was the superficial one. 
Each group believed in accurately reporting what it thought was 

147 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

the appearance of the thing seen. They merely happened to look 
for and to see quite different things and appearances. Where the 
pre-Raphaelites were greatly interested in the emotional implica- 
tions of their subject matters, the French, realistically, contented 
themselves with ocular curiosity. But in each instance the emphasis 
was on verisimilitude and reporting. 

One of the most important persons in the mediaeval royal 
courts was the king's jester, a functionary whose purpose was to 
keep the court amused, and who was privileged to utter home 
truths that would not have been permitted from the mouth of 
anyone else. I have little doubt that among the greatest influences 
in artistic Paris during much of the second half of the nineteenth 
century were the lithographed caricatures by Daumier. Daumier, 
in addition to being one of the caricaturists whose work reached 
the entire Parisian community two or three times a week, hap- 
pened to be one of the boldest innovators of his generation and 
one of the great seminal forces in modern pictorial design. As 
caricaturist and funny man he was exempted from the trammels 
of pictorial convention which weighed so heavily on the solemn 
and the academic painters. He did with impunity things that 
had they been done in oil paint would have been shocking and 
inexcusable. The world laughed with him, the academic artists 
shuddered at the thought of him, and the intelligent saved and 
preserved his prints. When we think of the fate of most old news- 
papers, one of the wonders of the world is that such a vast supply 
of Daumier's caricatures was preserved. The print collectors did 
not care for the work of his maturity, because it did not conform 
to the wholly artificial notions they had conceived about what 
constituted good lithography, but many of the painters took Ms 
work seriously and studied it hard. Anyone who is familiar with 
the last fifteen years of Daumier's work can see the reflections of 
it all through the mature work of Degas, and consequently through 
the work of the younger artists whom he influenced. 

Degas had an independent fortune and a witty and independent 
mind. His fortune did for him what Daumier's position as the 

148 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

accredited jester had done for him. He was enabled by it to go 
Ms own way without thought of the conventional modes of pic- 
torial conduct on which the poorer painters depended for their 
sales. He was led by his study of the Italian primitives, of Daumier, 
and of the newly discovered Japanese prints, to think about the 
possibilities of what happened when compositions were built up 
about unfamiliar points of view, unconventional cutting of the 
field of vision, and the arbitrary use of colour. He and the group 
of younger artists who came under his influence were not only 
the greatest draughtsmen of their time but were also those who 
thought most about design. Their adoption of the unconventional 
point of view and unconventional cutting of the field of vision, and 
their willingness to invent colour schemes, enabled them to find 
visual interest and excitement in episodes from familiar life of a 
kind that had either been overlooked or had come to be regarded 
as exhausted. There is reason to think that Degas devoted so much 
of. his attention to the ballet simply because its costumes, its 
attitudes, and the lights and the colours of the stage, bore so little 
resemblance to those of ordinary life that he could deal with them 
from the point of view of design absolved from the insistent popu- 
lar demand for conventional verisimilitude. Gauguin had to go to 
the South Seas for similar release from the iron bound convention. 
Poor Van Gogh achieved it by going mad; Lautrec by becoming a 
social outcast. 

In the Metropolitan Museum in New York there is a pair of 
pictures by Degas that remarkably illustrates his interest in this 
kind of thing. The basis of one of these pictures is a monotype in 
monochrome. The basis of the other is a counterproof of the same 
monotype. So far as their iconography is concerned they are mirror 
images of each other exactly alike but in different directions. 
Actually they are so different that many people do not recognize 
their close relation to each other. Their colour schemes are 
absolutely unlike, and their masses of colour and light and shade 
bear no resemblance to each other. Had Degas not teen over and 
above mere verisimilitude he could not have done them. Marvel- 

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NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

Ions as they are as separate works of art, taken together they 
demonstrate that Degas was primarily interested in design and 
not in representation. Had they become known to the world 
through engravings such as those that Raphael Morghen made 
after the great Bolognese painters the fundamental differences 
between them would never have been known to that part of the 
world which depended on engraved reproductions for its know- 
ledge of paintings. Degas made a well-known remark that the ballet 
provided him with a 'pretexte pour le dessiri*. This phrase has been 
translated as a 'pretext for (representational) drawing', but the 
word 'dessin* also means the very different thing we call 'design*, 
which has strong creative, volitional, implications and it was in 
this latter sense that Degas used the word. It was not his business 
to imitate what he saw but to dominate what he saw and to play 
with it as a creator of something quite his own. 

In the 1890*s and the early years of this century Toulouse- 
Lautrec made advertising posters with which the walls of Paris 
were covered. A Parisian might never have been to an art exhibi- 
tion, and never have looked attentively at any painting, but he 
could not evade the Lautrec posters, for they were everywhere 
before his eyes. In them great liberties were taken with traditional 
forms and colours. Many of them were two-dimensional in design. 
And they had the great quality of 'carrying' their arbitrary and 
wilful patterns could be seen from afar. The solemn and the 
traditionally minded did not take them seriously, but many pic- 
ture-makers did. And they had their undoubted effects on the 
public's eyes. Just as Daumier, the jester, and Degas, the rich man, 
had been enabled to do many things that were not permitted to the 
painter who lived on the sale of his canvasses, so Lautrec, the witty 
advertising man, was permitted to do so too. The shock of Ms 
posters was for many people an ocular liberation. The public 
learned from them that verisimilitude was far from being the be-all 
and end-all of picture-making. Incidentally, these posters made it 
obvious to even the most obtuse that the Impressionist emphasis 
on the envelope was after all not much more than reporting and 

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NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

had not essentially altered the hardened tradition of picture-mak- 
ing that actually Impressionism was only a technical variation 
on the standard academic themes, and that much of it was pecu- 
liarly empty. 

Thus Degas and these younger men had discovered the dif- 
ference between design and reporting, that a picture of gods and 
heroes and sentimental situations could be utterly trivial, and that 
a joke or a laundress, a bony ballet girl or cafe singer, or the good 
bourgeois and his wife, could provide the titular subject matter 
of as serious design as was ever contrived. 

The ruling academic notions were based on silly theories about 
the dignity of subject matter and impossible ones about the truth 
of colours and shapes. Religious subject matter had begun to fall 
out of fashion before the end of the seventeenth century. It is 
doubtful whether any of the outstanding painters in France dur- 
ing the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ever seriously put his 
mind on the traditional Bible stories from which the mediaeval 
and the Renaissance painters had drawn so much. Fine subject 
matter, other than portraits and landscape, had to be something 
far removed from the actualities of life, and preferably was to 
be taken from ancient myth or the lives of the heroes the only 
subjects in which prudery permitted preoccupation with the nude 
female figure. As the ancient myths and the lives of the heroes 
were not generally known and certainly not emotionally cogitated 
over by the public, the dramatic element of picture-making gradu- 
ally faded away. All that was left for the picture-maker-dramatist 
was a series of subjects that while apt to sloppy sentimentality 
were actually vapid and empty, because the pictures represented 
no one in particular. It is very difficult to arouse emotions about 
the human troubles and emotions of no one in particular. It may 
be that the frequent success of the mediaeval and later religious 
paintings was based on the fact that they represented very particu- 
lar people about whom everybody knew and in whom everybody 
was very much interested possibly the same reason that the 
ancient Greek drama in its time and way was so successful. In 

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NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

the failure to think about design all that was left was reporting of 
- a kind that set great store by verisimilitude of a very limited and 
conventional sort. In the endeavour to accomplish verisimilitude 
it was overlooked that it can be acquired only at the cost of per- 
sonality, with its emphases and omissions. 

As to the truth of shapes and colours the academic doctrine 
was based on a very complete contradiction in terms. What was 
thought of as visual truth was actually only a conventional veri- 
similitude, which was a very different thing. To leave colour out 
of the discussion for the time being, there is no such thing as a 
true still representation of a form in movement. Actually there is a 
constant conflict between the tactile-muscular sense returns and 
the visual returns, no matter how accustomed we may be to their 
association in what we think of as a single space. What we call 
the shape of a figure is no more than where its parts are in relation 
to one another at a moment. Its movement is how its parts are 
changing their relation to one another at a moment. The 'where* 
and the 'change* are incompatible notions, as has been known ever 
since the days of Zeno and his paradoxes. So far as the human 
eye is concerned it is impossible to see a shape clearly both in 
motion and at a moment. The camera has taught us that when we 
actually 'stop' the motion of an object completely enough to see its 
tactile-muscular shape with sharp accuracy, that is to say to stop 
it for something like the one five hundredth or the one one thou- 
sandth of a second which physiologically approaches a moment, 
the movement departs from both the perception and the record, 
and all we have is a stiff frozen shape that conveys no sense of 
motion at all. 

The only way that a sense of motion can be given to a body in 
a stiH picture is by distortion of its tactile-muscular shape at a 
moment. We can see this in the very simplest of shapes, let alone 
in such complicated ones as those of the human body. It comes 
out in the difference between a fast and a slow photograph of the 
drops of water thrown by a lawn-sprayer. In the fast photograph 
the drops are clearly and sharply defined and betray no sense of 

152 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

movement at all. In the slow photograph the drops of water are 
blurred and elongated in the direction of their movement. It is this 
distortion in the picture that makes us feel that the spray is 
moving. The more we elongate our representations of rain drops 
the faster seems their movement. If we want to represent a terrific 
driving downpour we actually cover our picture with parallel lines 
running diagonally across it. 

Much the same thing is true of colour. The only way we can get 
the colour of a spot is by matching it, which in practice means 
isolating it, but when we do that we change the apparent colour, 
for our perception of the apparent colour is affected not' only 
by the colours of the adjacent areas but by their sizes and 
illumination. It is this, for example, that makes it impossible to 
get a true colour reproduction of even -an abstract diagram in 
colour, let alone of a picture, unless we make our reproduction of 
the same size as that of the original and give it the same texture. 
There is literally no way to make a true colour reproduction on 
a changed scale. The implications of this should be obvious. 

Another thing that the academics set up to do was to create 
beauty with a capital B. According to them beauty was something 
that the artist created. Beauty was the distinguishing mark of the 
work of the artist. But of course, it was only created by the real 
artist, who, also of course, belonged to the right trade union and 
abided by its rules and by-laws. From a logical point of view, I 
suppose, there has never been anything funnier than the idea of 
'objects', the 'essence* of which was a 'quality' like 'beauty 5 , for 
the making of which there were official recipes and cook books. 
Intrinsic beauty is today an exploded notion, though doubtless 
there are still many persons who believe in it. 

Anyway, at the end of the nineteenth century and the be- 
ginning of this one, there were men in Paris who did not take the 
academics or their precepts and assumptions with any too great 
seriousness, and who did not hesitate to try to think about the 
problems presented by the arts of long ago and far away, with 
which they were gradually becoming familiar. Among other things 

153 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

these men perceived was the folly of the traditional view that the 
early and the exotic artists only worked the way they did because 
they were ignorant and unskilled, and that when we looked at their 
work we forgave them their errors because of their ignorance and 
their innocence but that we should not forgive the work of con- 
temporaries for such reasons. It came to be recognized in these 
inquiring circles which took design seriously that the primitive 
artists of Europe were not so ignorant and certainly not so inno- 
cent as the official academic painters believed. These groups also 
discovered that the Asiatics, the Polynesians, and the Africans 
were far from being all innocence in the ways they designed and 
carved objects. What these primitive and exotic artists had been 
ignorant of was the specifically western European post-mediaeval 
requirement of verisimilar reporting an activity that had been 
taken over by the photograph. 

Thus there gradually came into being a group of artists who 
were so much interested in this question of innocence and ignor- 
ance and knowingness in design and representation, that they 
began to make experiments for themselves to see whether they 
might find out why it was that objects that had no verisimilitude, 
that had lost all their anecdotal subject matter in their transference 
across the ages and the seas, and that ignored the canons of taste 
and beauty that had been set up in post mediaeval Europe, should 
nevertheless be so remarkably fascinating to the modern Euro- 
peans who looked at them. Of course these men talked and wrote 
as well as painted and sculpted, and of course much of what 
they said and wrote was arrant nonsense. For, after all, that is 
the way men have always gone about things of this kind. No 
greater nonsense has ever been perpetrated than that which great 
thinkers in the past have put forth in their search for workable 
hypotheses. But in the course of time something always comes 
out of these discussions and this kind of moonshine. What men do 
in these matters is what counts, and not what they say. And so, as 
we look back at what was being done about the turn of the century 
in Paris, we have to disregard the verbal notions and ideas and 

154 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

look at the things that were made. If we look at these dispas- 
sionately and without any doctrinaire parti pris, I believe we can 
see a pattern in them. This pattern is that of a long and exciting 
series of experiments and discoveries in syntax. It may be silly of 
me, but I cannot help being interested in the fact that these artistic 
experiments were being made just at the time that such men as 
Frege, and Whitehead and Russell, were making their syntactical 
analyses of the basic notions of logic and pure mathematics. 

Just as the mathematicians and logicians in their investigations 
into the logic and syntax of arithmetic and geometry had to make a 
clean distinction between pure and applied mathematics and logic, 
in other words to omit all thought of the subject matters to which 
their mathematics and logic might be applied, so the artists had to 
give up thinking about anecdotal subject matter and verisimilitude 
in their experiments and investigations into the syntax of design. 
In this way they learned that many of the forms which had become 
traditional in the studios were not real in the sense of representing 
anything that was found in nature or of having any existence aside 
from their utility in the drawing school, that actually they were 
merely syntactical devices, and that there were many variant 
varieties of them, none of them any truer than the other. In the 
abstract it is no truer that A times B equals B times A than that 
they do not equal each other. In practice it all depends on what you 
are trying to do, and you have the privilege of taking either 
assumption, as it meets your problem. 

To object to these experiments on the ground that they did not 
conform to the accepted canons of reportorial representation was 
and is as foolish as it would be to object to the notations of the 
modern logicians because it is impossible to write a funny story 
or report an exciting fire in them. Just as there is a subject called 
the Foundations of Geometry, which bears little or no resemblance 
to the metrical geometry of the carpenters, so the work of these 
artists bore little or no resemblance to the factual reporting that 
most of the European world demanded of what it called art. 

Naturally, as soon as these experiments were sufficiently 

155 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

damned and belaboured a great many artists came into the game, 
not so much because they had any understanding of what it meant 
or represented, but out of curiosity, and in some instances because 
they mistakenly thought that it seemed to excuse incapacities in 
both draughtsmanship and design. It is to be doubted whether 
even the academics of the purest water misunderstood the move- 
ment any more thoroughly than did a lot of the most vocal of its 
fellow travellers. In any case, they seem to have been utterly un- 
able to distinguish between the real and the imitation. There was, 
however, one peculiar difference between the men who started 
the investigations and the fellow travellers; the original group 
very rarely did anything that was deliberately offensive, or bilious, 
or resentful. Also, it was obvious, no matter how queer and odd 
their things may have seemed, that they knew very well how to 
handle their materials. Some of them were actually amazingly 
skilful draughtsmen even from the most reactionary point of view. 
Thus there was always a curious but indefinable sense of pro- 
fessional competence about their work. If it was shocking, it was 
not because it was in any way indecent or vulgar but because it 
challenged basic assumptions. It is funny how easily we forgive 
and forget nastiness and immorality, and how we harbour resent- 
ment against the men who raise questions that make us look 
foolish. 

Today, as nearly as I can make out, the little drama has come 
pretty nearly to its end. People no longer get excited about it. But 
its results, I believe, have been a permanent gain, if in no other 
way than that the empty verisimilitude, the particular reportorial 
formlessness and lack of design which marked so much of nine- 
teenth and early twentieth-century work of the defter and slicker 
kinds, has tended to find its level on the insurance calendars 
rather than on the walls of public buildings and museums. 

I am convinced that all of this has taken place very largely 
because the photograph and photographic processes have brought 
us knowledge of art that could never have been achieved so long 
as western European society was dependent upon the old graphic 

156 



NEW REPORTS & NEW VISION 

processes and techniques for its reports about art. The syntaxes of 
engraving had held our society tight in the little local provinciality 
of their extraordinary limitations, and it was photography, the 
pictorial report devoid of any linear syntax of its own, that made 
us effectively aware of the wider horizons that differentiate the 
vision of today from that of sixty or seventy years ago. 



157 



VIII 
RECAPITULATION 



T 



time has come to attempt a summary of the story and 
the argument that have so rapidly been indicated in the 
previous chapters. 

While the number of printed pictures and designs 
that have been made as works of art is very large, the number made 
to convey visual information is many times greater. Thus the story 
of prints is not, as many people seem to think, that of a minor art 
form but that of a most powerful method of communication 
between men and of its effects upon western European thought and 
civilization. 

We cannot understand this unless we bear in mind some of the 
basic factors in communication between human beings. 

Whatever may be the psychological and physiological processes 
which we call knowing and thinking, we are only able to com- 
municate the results of that knowing and thinking to other men 
by using one or another kind of symbolism. Of the various methods 
of making such symbolic communication there can be little doubt 
that the two most useful and important are provided by words 
and pictures. Both words and pictures have been known to man 
since the most remote times. In fact, it may be said that until the 
animal had used them he had not become man. 

While both words and pictures are symbols, they are different 

158 



RECAPITULATION 

in many ways of the greatest importance. So little are they 
equivalent to each other that if communication were confined to 
either alone, it would become very limited in its scope. All words 
need definitions, in the sense that to talk about things we have to 
have names for them. Verbal definition is a regress from word to 
word, until finally it becomes necessary to point to something 
which we say is what the last word in the verbal chain of definition 
means. Frequently the most convenient way of pointing is to make 
a picture. The word then receives definition, or, if one likes, the 
thing receives a name, by the association of a sensuous awareness 
with an oral or visual symbol. 

Any legible written word, whether it be drawn painfully by an 
illiterate or written in flowing calligraphy by a writing master, 
remains the same word no matter how it may look. The same 
thing is true of the sound of the spoken word, with all its personal 
peculiarities and local accents. The reason for this is that any 
particular specimen, whether spoken, written or printed, is merely 
a representative member of a class of arbitrary forms of sounds 
and visual signs, which we have learned or agreed to regard as 
having the same meanings. In every instance it is the class of 
arbitrary forms that has the definition as a word and not any 
particular oral or visual specimen. Thanks to this it is possible for 
a word to be exactly repeated, for what is given in repetition is 
not the same unique specimen but another equally representative 
member of the same class of arbitrary forms. 

Hand-made pictures, to the contrary, we are aware of as 
unique things ; we all see the differences between them and know 
the impossibility of repeating any of them exactly by mere muscular 
action. Thus so long as the only way there was of describing objects 
was by the use of repeatable words and unrepeatable hand-made 
pictures, it was never possible from an oral or visual description 
to identify any object as being a particular object and not merely a 
member of some class. In tMnking about this we have to remember 
that identification of the location, the function, or some particular 
marking of an object, is not a description of the object. 

159 



RECAPITULATION 

Except for the words which are proper names or syntactical 
devices, a word is merely a name for a class of relations, qualities, 
or actions. The consequence of this is that what we call verbal 
description is very often no more than the accumulation of a series 
of class names. It is much like the game we play on board ship 
when we toss loose rings of rope about a peg. No one of the rings 
closely fits the peg. If it did we could not toss it over the peg. As 
it is each ring can go over a great many very different pegs. But 
by tossing a great many very loose verbal rings over an object we 
think that we describe the object. Thus when we endeavour to 
make a full and accurate verbal description of even the simplest 
things, such for instance as an ordinary kitchen can-opener, we 
accumulate such an enormous and complicated heap of verbal 
rings that it becomes practically impossible for anyone but a highly 
trained specialist to understand what we have said. This is the 
reason the tool-maker wants not a verbal description of the thing 
he is asked to make but a careful picture of it. It is doubtful if any 
much more intricate intellectual process can be imagined than the 
translation of a linear series of verbal symbols, arranged in an 
analytical, syntactical time order, into an organization of concrete 
materials, and shapes, and colours, all existing simultaneously in 
a three-dimensional space. If this is true of such simple abstract 
forms as those of can-openers, it takes little thought to realize 
what the situation is in regard to the infinitely complex and 
accidental shapes that occur in nature and in art. It brings home 
to us the utter necessity of properly made pictures if we wish to 
convey our ideas in exact and meaningful ways. Certainly, without 
pictures most of our modern highly developed technologies could 
not exist. Without them we could have neither the tools we 
require nor the data about which we think. 

Furthermore, science and technology, for their full fruition, 
need more than just a picture; they need a picture that, like the 
words of verbal description, can be exactly repeated. A word or a 
sentence that could not be exactly repeated would have no mean- 
lag. Exact repetition is of the essence for words, for without it they 

160 



RECAPITULATION 

would be merely meaningless signs or sounds. Without exact 
repetition of the verbal symbols there would be no verbal com- 
munication, no law, no science, no literature. There would be only 
animal expression, like that of the barn yard. Over the years a good 
many people can see a picture, and many pictures can be sent 
travelling about the world. But, even so, a unique picture can make 
its communication to very few people, and it can only make it in 
one place at a time. There is a distinct limit to the number of 
persons who can seriously see and study and work from any single 
unique picture. As we have seen, the Greek botanists were fully 
aware of the limitation upon the use of hand-made pictures as a 
means of communicating exact ideas of shapes and colours. The 
reason for this limitation was that the Greeks, like their pre- 
decessors and, for many generations, their successors, had no way 
of making exactly repeatable pictures. They could only make 
copies of pictures, and when hand-made copies are made from 
hand-made copies it takes only a small number of copies for the 
final copy to bear no practically useful resemblance to the original. 
The meaning of this should be obvious so far as concerns the dis- 
semination of accurate information about forms and shapes. In 
short, prior to the Renaissance, there was no way of publishing a 
picture as there was of a text. 

While this is never mentioned by the historians of thought and 
art, of science and technology, it undoubtedly had much to do 
with the slowness of the development of science and technology 
and the thought based on them. Communication is absolutely 
necessary for scientific and especially technological development, 
and to be effective it must be accurate and exactly repeatable. 
Science in actual practice is not a dead body of acquired informa- 
tion but an actively growing accumuktion of hypotheses put forth 
to be tried and tested by many people. This trying and testing 
cannot be done without exact repeatability of communication. 
What one or two men have thought and done does not become 
science until it has been adequately communicated to other 
men. 
KV.c. 161 N 



RECAPITULATION 

The conventional exact repeatability of the verbal class symbols 
gave words a position in the thought of the past that they no longer 
hold. The only important things the ancients could exactly repeat 
were verbal formulae. Exact repeatability and permanence are so 
closely alike that the exactly repeatable things easily become 
thought of as the permanent or real things, and all the rest are apt 
to be thought of as transient and thus as mere reflections of the 
seemingly permanent things. This may seem a matter of minor 
moment, but I have little doubt that it had much to do with the 
origin and development of the Platonic doctrine of Ideas and the 
various modifications of it that have tangled thought until the 
present day. The analytical syntax of sentences composed of 
words certainly had much to do with the origin of the notions of 
substance and attributable qualities, which has not only played a 
formative role in the history of philosophy but for long presented 
one of the most formidable hurdles in the path of developing 
scientific knowledge. At any rate, until comparatively recent times 
nominalism, with its emphasis on facts, its distrust of words, and 
its interest in how things act rather than in what they essen- 
tially are, has had little chance, and its great development has 
coincided remarkably with the ever-broadening development of 
modem pictorial methods of record and communication. 

Some time at the end of the fourteenth or beginning of the 
fifteenth centuries men in western Europe began to make pictorial 
woodcuts, but no one knows when or where. For all we know it 
may have started simultaneously in many different places. By the 
middle of the fifteenth century men were engraving, and before its 
end they were etching. Printing from movable types began pre- 
sumably in the 1440"s; by the middle of the 1450*s the Gutenberg 
Bible had been printed; and about 1461 the Edektein came from 
the press. The Edektein was merely a book of popular tales, but 
its pages were decorated with woodcuts. At the time they had no 
informational value or purpose. In 1467 the Torquemada was 
printed. It was a book of devotion, but illustrated with rough 
woodcuts representing definite particular things, the pictures 

162 



RECAPITULATION 

with which a named and located church had been decorated. In 
1472 the Valturius appeared. It was full of woodcuts of machinery, 
which were specifically intended to convey information. Shortly 
after 1480 the first illustrated botany book appeared* Its woodcuts 
were the last of a long series of copies of copies that started far 
back of the ninth century, and in consequence bore no relation to 
the things they were supposed to represent. In 1485 came the first 
printed botany book with illustrations drawn at first hand from 
the plants described in the text. In 1486 Rewich illustrated and 
printed the first illustrated travel book, the famous Breydenbach. 
Rewich had accompanied the author on his travels and drew the 
things they saw. In that same year three colours were first used in 
the printing of illustrations. In 1493 several illustrated catalogues 
of precious objects in the possession of some of the German 
cathedrals were printed. These appear to be the first printed 
illustrated catalogues of any kind of collections. By the middle of 
the fifteen-hundreds illustrated books about every conceivable kind 
of subject were coming from the presses of Europe in an ever 
increasing flood. Conspicuous among them were books about 
architecture, botany, machinery, anatomy, zoology, costumes, 
archaeology, numismatics, and, specially, some of the technologies 
and crafts. The single sheet print in the various mediums then 
available had begun its task of carrying across Europe in all 
directions information about buildings and works of art that them- 
selves never travelled. The rapid pervasion of the Italian Renais- 
sance and Baroque styles was accomplished by the single sheet 
print and the illustration. 

Nothing like this had ever been known before. The same 
identical pictorial statements were made in each example of the 
edition, whether of a single sheet print or of an illustrated book. 
While for at least several thousand years men had been accustomed 
to fc having texts that repeated the same statements Pliny the 
Younger, shortly after A.D. 100, referred casually to an edition of 
a thousand copies now for the first time men were getting accus- 
tomed to pictures that repeated the same statements. It began to 

163 



RECAPITULATION 

be possible to convey invariant visual information about things 
that words were incompetent to describe or define. 

With few exceptions, these illustrations prior to the middle of 
the fifteen-hundreds were what used to be called 'facsimile wood- 
cuts 5 , i.e. woodcuts made by cutting away the surface of a wooden 
block between the lines drawn on it by a draughtsman. This was 
not a translation of the draughtsman's lines but a saving of them, 
as many of the woodcutters were so skilful that the 'hands' of the 
draughtsmen can be recognized in the prints from the blocks. 
This skill made it possible for first-hand pictorial statements to 
appear in books, not only in some volume or volumes but in every 
copy of the entire edition of a book. 

The first-hand pictorial statement by a competent draughtsman 
has much the same value as the testimony of a first-hand witness. 
If he is sharp-sighted and observant he can tell us much about an 
object or an action, but nevertheless his training and habit of 
seeing and drawing lead him to select certain things for statements 
and to omit others from them. Each school of art had its scheme 
for laying lines, and these schemes in time became neither more 
nor less than grammars and syntaxes which, while making hand- 
made pictorial statements possible, also greatly restricted and 
influenced their power of statement. Much as he might want to, a 
German in the fifteenth or sixteenth century could not draw like 
an Italian, or vice versa. This meant that neither could say the 
same things in his drawings that the other could. We get sharp 
evidence of this in the copies that each made from the other the 
Germans copying Italian engravings and the Italians copying 
German engravings. Although the specific lines of the original 
were there before him, the copyist never actually followed them 
closely in his copy, and rarely made any attempt to do so. Except 
in the most generalized of ways no two drawings, even one copied 
from the other, gave the same particularities. Especially was this 
true when the copy was not only a copy but a translation into 
another medium. The results of this are perhaps most easily to be 
seen in the prints after works of art, for in none of them are we 

164 



RECAPITULATION 

able to find the kind of qualitative statement that is necessary for 
connoisseurship of the work of art itself. As represented in the 
prints it was impossible to tell the most arrant fake from the 
original. 

However, no matter what its defects might be, the first hand 
visual statement in a print had the great advantage that it 
was exactly repeatable and invariant. This meant that in things 
like the descriptive sciences, such for instance as botany and 
anatomy, it was possible to produce what we may think of as 
representations that were standardized to the extent of the size of 
the edition. So long as the subject of the print was not a par- 
ticularity but a generalized statement of the generic traits of some 
kind of object the situation was good enough. In fact* even today 
when we want to give a statement not of personal characteristics 
but of abstracted generic forms we still use drawings for our 
illustrations. 

In the middle of the fifteen-hundreds several very important 
things happened in print making that were to have unsuspected 
results. The woodcut broke down under the constant demand for 
more and more information in the available spaces. To pack more 
pictorial information in a given space, the lines have to be made 
finer and closer together. This led to the making of wood-blocks 
with such minutely reticulated surfaces that for practical purposes 
the printers were unable to get good impressions from the blocks 
with the paper and the techniques of printing that were then avail- 
able. Whereas it is easy to find copies of the earlier books con- 
taining good impressions of their coarser blocks, it is sometimes 
exceedingly difficult to find copies of later books that contain good 
impressions from their finely worked blocks. It is probable that 
many of the most important picture books of the mid fifteen-hun- 
dreds never contained good impressions from their blocks. 

The engraving, however, did not suffer from this technical 
difficulty. Its lines could be very fine and very close together, as 
compared to those on any wood-block, and still yield a sufficient 
quantity of clear impressions on the papers then available. I think 

165 



RECAPITULATION 

It can be said that this fact had much to do with the general Increase 
in the use of engraving for illustrations that took place after the 
middle of the fifteen-hundreds. In any event, by the end of the 
century the engraving had taken the place of the woodcut in all 
but very few of the books made for the educated classes. This was 
not, as has been said, a mere superficial change in fashion, it was a 
basic change in modes and techniques made in response to an 
insistent demand for fuller visual information. In so far as there 
was a fashion as distinct from any need, I believe the fashion 
merely followed the norm set by the informational demand. 

It thus becomes necessary to think about engraving and etching, 
which, from our present point of view, are to be regarded as 
varieties of the same technique. In the first years of engraving the 
engravers had been gold- and silversmiths. Then trained draughts- 
men began to make engravings and, naturally, they used the linear 
schemes and syntaxes to which they were accustomed in their pen 
drawings and those of their schools. The German syntactical 
scheme was very different from the Italian. In the early years of 
the sixteenth century Marc Antonio and others after him began 
to make engravings after drawings, paintings, and sculpture by 
other men. These prints were made and sold not so much as works 
of art but rather as informational documents about works of art. 
Thus Diirer* in Ms Netherlands diary, refers to prints after 
Raphael as 'Raphaels Ding,' which he knew they were not. 
Marc Antonio evolved a novel scheme for the translation of 
sculpture into engraved reproductions. Instead of reporting about 
the surfaces of objects, their textures, their colour values, and the 
play of light across them, he devised a linear net which enabled him 
schematically to indicate their bosses and hollows. The most 
particular personal characteristics of the original works of art, 
their brash strokes and chisel marks, were thus omitted, and what 
was transmitted in the print was little more than an indication 
of iconography combined with generalized shapes and masses. 
At the end Marc Antonio used the same linear scheme in en- 
graving Raphael's drawings and paintings that he had worked 

166 



RECAPITULATION 

out for ancient sculpture the characterless 'Roman copies' 
of Greek statues. It is important to remember this, for it had 
momentous consequences. 

It is to be noticed that while the early engravers on occasion 
made prints^ of late mediaeval objects, such as Schongauer's 
'Censer 5 , it is difficult to find a reproductive print of such an object 
by any of the engravers who grew up in the linear syntaxes that 
came after Marc Antonio. For practical purposes it is impossible 
to find a reproductive print by one of the masters of engraving that 
represents an early painting or a piece of mediaeval sculpture. 
Such mediaeval statues as were reproduced were reproduced not 
carefully for their own sakes but merely as hastily indicated details 
in architectural ensembles. The vast number of these mediaeval 
things still in existence shows that they have always been held 
precious by somebody, if not as works of art at least as examples 
of skill, as antiquities, or as relics. Thus the lack of engraved repro- 
ductions of them cannot be explained simply on the ground of a 
change in taste or fashion. A much more likely explanation is to 
be found in the fact that they did not yield themselves to the kind 
of rendering which was implicitly required by the dominant and 
highly schematized linear practice of engraving. When you have 
no vocabulary with which to discuss a subject, you do not talk 
very much about that subject. 

Marc Antonio's method was rapidly adopted and developed by 
engravers everywhere, for it had the great business advantages that 
it was easily learned and could be used, no matter how libellously, 
for many different kinds of subject matter. The very limited aver- 
age instrument of a very limited average purpose, it became the 
dominant style of engraving in spite of the fact that it made it 
impossible for the engraver who used it to catch and hold the 
particular characteristics that gave the originals their unique 
qualities. Everything that went through the procrastean engraving 
shops came out of them in a form that had been schematized and 
made reasonable and reasonability meant conformity to the 
generalized abstract conventional webbing of lines that was an 

167 



RECAPITULATION 

incident of manufacture. As every great work of art is as by defini- 
tion unconventional in its most important aspects, a representation 
of it in terms of a convention that leaves out those aspects is by 
definition a misrepresentation. 

Shortly after Marc Antonio began his grammatical or syn- 
tactical investigations, the print publisher and dealer began to 
make his appearance. He was a manufacturer-merchant, and often 
was not himself an engraver. He employed others to make prints, 
not of subjects that interested them, but of subjects that he thought 
he might be able to sell. Very often that could have been the only 
interest that he himself took in them. Some of the publishers had 
the engravers work for them in their shops, just as though they had 
been mechanics. As ideas of business efficiency came in, the 
engraver gradually ceased to make the drawings after the originals 
he 'reproduced'. The publishers procured drawings of the objects 
they wanted to make reproductions of. These were then handed 
to the engravers, who copied and translated them on to their 
copper plates, generally without ever having seen the objects their 
work was supposed to represent. The consequence was that the 
prints which came out of these efficient shops were at best second 
or third hand accounts of their distant originals, and, not only 
that, translations of translations as well as copies of copies. The 
scheme of operation made it impossible to give any pictorial 
report of such things as the brush work, the chisel strokes, or the 
surfaces, of the originals which, in fact, were the originals. 
Moreover, the prints became filled with cliches of representation 
based on the requirements of the linear syntax that had been 
adopted by the engraving craft, which interposed a flat veto on 
the representation of the most personal of all the traits of the 
original work of art. The linear network varied but little in its 
general scale, although the objects that were engraved, be they 
large or small, were all reduced or enlarged to a few typical scales 
which had no relation to the sizes of the originals. This had 
important effects on the vision of the people who used the 
engravings, 

168 



RECAPITULATION 

Naturally this schematic network of lines became the medium 
for the exhibition of a great deal of virtuosity, not of keen reporting 
but of the handling of the lines in the network. The extravagances 
of the virtuosi had their immediate effect on the day's work of the 
more humble artisans of the copper plate. The textures of the net- 
work became ends in themselves and not merely aids to statement. 
Form and content were separated, and both got lost. 

When engraving became a capitalist enterprise it became 
important to get as many impressions from the engraved or etched 
copper plate as possible with as little difference as might be between 
them. Towards the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the 
seventeenth century this problem was worked at with great busi- 
ness acumen by a number of men in different places. Among these 
men there may be mentioned Rubens, the painter, Callot, the 
etcher, and Abraham Bosse, who wrote the standard technical 
treatise on the craft. These men invented and rationalized ways of 
laying and sinking lines on plates in such a way that the plates 
would yield very large editions before they wore out. This not only 
affected the weave of the linear net, but increased its independence 
from accuracy in reporting. 

Rubens, if not actually the first important artist to have a 
financial interest in the reproduction of his work, was the first to 
create about himself a school of engravers who specialized in the 
reproduction of his pictures, and often was himself either the pub- 
lisher or a partner in the publishing firms. Anthony van Dyck, his 
famous painter pupil, used the services of a group of these 
engravers of the Rubens school to produce a set of over a hundred 
portraits, the first few of which he himself had etched. The set ran 
through many editions, and its coppers were still being printed 
from in the present century. The influence of the set can be traced 
in many engraved portraits until the second half of the nineteenth 
century. In a way it may be regarded as having provided the norm 
for much of subsequent portrait-engraving and etching. 

In France, the only country that had a single artistic capital, 
engraving had a popularity perhaps greater than it enjoyed any. 

169 



RECAPITULATION 

where else. The French engravers of the seventeenth century 
embarked on a search for linear methods that would be economic- 
ally efficient and at the same time afford opportunity to show off 
their skill and agility in the choreography of their self-assumed 
goose-steps. Their skill in these goose-steps soon became of more 
importance than the fidelity with which they reproduced their 
originals. Some of them engraved in parallel lines, others evolved 
elaborate schemes of highly artificial cross-hatchings, some became 
experts in the sheen of satins and metal and the barbering of hair. 
The subjects to be engraved were undoubtedly chosen to enable 
them to shine in their specialties. Few of the masterpieces of art 
did this. 

In the eighteenth century the French fashion for framed draw- 
ings in interior decoration led to the attempt to give closer repro- 
duction of the superficial qualities of the drawings that the en- 
gravers worked from. Up to this time engravings had looked like 
engravings and nothing else, but now, thanks to the discovery of 
new techniques, the test of their success began to be the extent to 
which they looked like something else. Among the new techniques 
used for this purpose were aquatint and stipple, and soft ground 
etching, the crayon manner, and others still. Some of the plates 
began to be printed in colour the more closely to imitate the 
drawings and water-colours. In the seventeenth century mezzo- 
tinting, a blurry medium devoid of sharp accents, had been invented 
as a way of reproducing oil paintings in tones instead of in lines. 
Except in England, where painting was lower in key than in France, 
it was not much used. One of the curious things about all these new 
techniques of making prints is that so little original work was ever 
done in them. Goya was the only great artist ever to produce more 
than a sporadic essay in aquatint. The best artists to make more 
than an odd soft ground etching were Girtin and Cotman. Turner 
made a few reproductive mezzotints after his own drawings. But I 
doubt if any great artist has ever regularly used any of the other 
methods for Ms first-hand expression. I think it can be said that 
as a rule the great artist has habitually used only such graphic pro- 

170 



RECAPITULATION 

cesses as are comparatively direct, and that the desire for expression 
is incompatible with the indirections, the technical complexities, 
and the linear routine that mark most of the reproductive tech- 
niques. Direct a process as engraving was in the hands of the 
primitive masters, and notably in those of such men as Pollaiuolo 
and Mantegna, it is to be noted that from the point of view of the 
artist the 'facsimile woodcut' was still easier, for all that he had to 
do was to make a stylized drawing on the block which was then 
cut by a skilled mechanic. Even such a complete master of the 
technique of engraving as Diirer actually designed many more 
woodcuts than he made engravings, and, if we omit six or eight 
of his most popular engravings from the count, his most interesting 
work was done on the block. A further reflection of this easiness 
of the woodcut is to be seen in the fact that Holbein and Burgkmair 
made no engravings, and that Baldung and Cranach made but a 
very few. The wide spread of etching among original artists in the 
seventeenth century and again in the nineteenth century can prob- 
ably be accounted for by the fact that it was the most direct and 
simplest method of making printing surfaces that was known prior 
to the invention of lithography. 

However there is no getting away from the other fact that the 
easiest way for the original artist was to have his work copied by 
the professional reproductive engravers. The result was that by the 
end of the eighteenth century single sheet prints and book illustra- 
tions had, with few exceptions, become mere second- and third- 
hand, statements, in which everything had been reduced to the 
average common-sense level of craftsman's shop work. By the end 
of the eighteenth century the first-hand visual statement had 
practically ceased to exist in the illustration of books, and in the 
single-sheet print it had become the rare exception. In France, at 
least, the manufacturing situation in the engraving shops had 
become even more complicated than it had been in the past, for the 
printing surfaces were often made by several men, beginning with 
an etcher, who laid in the outlines of the print from the drawing, 
and winding up with a finisher-engraver, who went over the etched 

171 



RECAPITULATION 

lines and filled In between and reduced everything to the neat, 
tidy, characterless, and fashionable, net of rationality of engraving. 
Sometimes some equivalent of the quality of the drawings for the 
engraver made a ghostly flicker in the first etched states, but by 
the time that the finishers had done their work of degradation all 
qualitative equivalence to the originals and to the drawings for the 
engraver had completely vanished. The things that counted in public 
estimation were the brilliant moke of the damask of the engraved 
lines and the sentimentality of the general situations represented. 
I personally have no doubt that the growth of pictorial reason- 
ability In the eighteenth century was based on the economics and 
shop practices of the business of print manufacture. Neither have 
I any doubt that this business had a great effect on the public as 
well as on the artists, for it was through the engraved picture that 
the world received its visual notions about most of the things it 
had not seen and studied with its own eyes which is to say about 4 
most of the things in the world. One might think, if one had not 
waded through the contents of some of the great historic collec- 
tions of old prints and iEustrated books, that any visual report of 
a work of art would always tell much the same story about it, no 
matter where or when it was made, but the fact is that the repro- 
ductive prints and illustrations contained far more of the linear 
syntaxes and shop practices of their places and times of production 
than they did of the detail or character of the originals they pur- 
ported to represent. Actually the buyers had come to appreciate 
prints and illustrations far more for the skill of their makers in 
the artificial dance steps of the engraver's tool than for any repre- 
sentational fidelity. 

Then the poor and the uneducated did not have reproductions. 
But the rich and the educated did, and their reproductions had a 
great effect upon their vision, which, as today, was based not so 
much on acquaintance with originals as on acquaintance with 
reproductions. I have spoken of the net of engraved lines and all 
that it omitted, but there was another equally important factor for 
vision in the old engraved reproductions. The sizes of the printed 

172 



RECAPITULATION 

reproductions bore no necessary relation to the sizes of the 
originals. In the printed picture the great mural might easily 
be smaller than a little portrait, a jewel greater in size than a 
fagade. Further, in the hand-made reproduction all trace of the 
handling of his tools by the maker of the original had vanished. 
There was no difference in the engravings between the texture of 
a painting by a young Raphael and that by an aged Titian, or 
between the surfaces of a 'Roman copy', a Greek original, and a 
Gothic sculpture. The wilful theatrical stroke of Rubens's brash 
in one of his sketches, like the dominant expressive gouge of 
Michael Angelo's chisel, was smoothed out and obliterated. If the 
original artist had resorted to shorthand in his statement of any 
form, the engravers spelled it out at length in terms of the most 
commonplace vision and cliche of rendering. Had the engravers 
worked from the originals more than they did, and less from poor 
sketches by poor draughtsmen, this might not have happened to 
the same extent. But, whoever might have tried it would still have 
faced the problem of the longevity of his plates, and that absolutely 
required the artificial net work of line. Steel facing was not dis- 
covered until photography was in use. 

As it was, a blighting common sense descended on the vision 
of the educated world. This showed itself not only in the terms in 
which that world talked about art but in the contemporary art the 
world relished. Its principal interest had been diverted by the 
means of reproduction away from the actual qualities of the 
originals and works of art and directed to generalized notions 
about their subject matters. Thus the century failed to take 
account in art, just as so much of it did in writing, of the thing 
that Pascal, in the seventeenth century, had pointed out about 
writing that the quality of a statement consists more in the 
choice and arrangement of the particular symbols used in making it 
than in its general sense (Les sens recoivent des paroles lew dignite, 
au lieu de la leur dormer). The eighteenth century talked about 
harmony, proportion, dignity, nobility, grandeur, sublimity, mid 
many other common-sense abstract verbal notions basal upon the 

173 



RECAPITULATION 

gross generalities of the subject matter that came through into the 
engraved reproductions. The sharp particularities of which works 
of art are necessarily constructed and which give them their char- 
acter and value were unknown and umnentioned, for they escaped 
verbal description and were never reproduced in the reproductions. 
Thus, in spite of Winckelmann's remarks about engravings and the 
necessity of knowing the originals, the aesthetic doctrine of his 
History of Ancient Art of 1764 may be regarded as the ration- 
alization of a set of values based on the catch of the engraver's 
net. The same thing can be said of most of the critical discussion 
in such a standard book as Bosanquefs History of Aesthetic which 
was published in 1 892, i.e. at a time when the photomechanical 
processes were still in a very unsatisfactory state of development. 
It is amusing to think how few of the great weavers of aesthetic 
theory had any familiar first-hand acquaintance with works of art 
and how many of them either, like Lessing, knew the art they 
talked about only through engravings, or else sieved their ideas 
out of the empty air. Had it not been for this it is doubtful whether 
the Milords who made the grand tours would have been so happy 
and complaisant about all the poor copies of High Renaissance 
pictures and all the bad 'Roman' imitations of classical sculpture 
which they brought back to the North. 

We can catch a glimpse of what was going on in still another 
way. Very few of us ever think to what an extent the painters of 
the fancy subjects and historical compositions, which were so 
generally admired during much of the eighteenth century and the 
first part of the nineteenth century, produced their canvasses to 
be engraved rather than to be seen in their paint. The sale of the 
painting was often of less importance than the sale of the prints 
after It. Hogarth knew this very well. The patronage of Mr. 
Alderman Boy dell, the great print publisher, meant more to many 
an English painter than did that of His Majesty and a dozen 
dukes. Today in America we have a curious analogue in the 
novelists who write for the sale of their 'movie rights* rather than 
for the sale of their books. 

174 



RECAPITULATION 

At the end of the eighteenth century a number of things hap- 
pened which were to have remarkable consequences. Men dis- 
covered that, by using the engraver's tool on the end of the grain 
of the wood instead of a knife on its side, it was possible to produce 
wood-blocks from which the finest of lines and tints could be 
printed in great quantities. Paper, smooth paper, began to be made 
by machinery run by power in a continuous process. Iron printing 
presses came into being, and in 1815 one was invented that was 
run by power and not by the strength of men's backs. The number 
of impressions that could be run off in an hour was greatly multi- 
plied. Stereotyping was remembered and put to practical use. In 
1797 Senefelder discovered how to make lithographs; Wedgwood 
in 1802 announced the first practical step towards Talbof s later 
discovery of photography. By early in the 1830's the book 
publishers had discovered that there was a great market for cheap 
illustrated books, magazines, and cyclopaedias, directed at the 
man in the street and not at the classically educated gentleman in 
his elegant library. Among these publications were many that 
dealt with techniques and the processes of making and doing 
things, and it was not long before the ordinary man, the un- 
educated man who used his hands and who knew how to read and 
to look intelligently at explanatory pictures, was finding out much 
from which he had been effectually debarred. The crafts instead 
of being the *arts and mysteries' of highly restricted trades and 
guilds were thrown open to anyone who had the abiKty to teach 
himself from a book. Out of all this came such a rash of inventions 
and new processes as had never before been known. The same 
thing happened in many of the sciences and for much the same 
reasons. At least in England, which took the lead in all this 
invention and investigation, the outstanding engineers and 
scientists for a long time were not the graduates of the classicizing 
'public schools' and the universities, but the ingeniously self 
educated. It had great moral and ethical results, as well as econ- 
omic and social ones. 

In art, the lithograph made it possible for such artists as Goya 

175 



RECAPITULATION 

and Delacroix to send out Into the world their own drawings, not 
in unique specimens but in editions. Each impression had all their 
personality and all their daring, unhampered and unspoiled by the 
intermediary engravers. Things like Goya's 'Bull Fights of Bor- 
deaux* and Delacroix's illustrations for Faust blew a great hurri- 
cane through the dead air of the single-sheet print and the book 
illustration in France. It shortly produced Daumier. 

In the 183Q*s Talbot and Daguerre worked out photo- 
graphy and the daguerreotype, and in a little while it became 
possible for the first time to have reproductions of works of art 
that had not been distorted and vulgarized by the middle-man 
draughtsman and* engraver to have reports of works of art that 
had not been reduced to the syntax and the blurring technical 
necessities of a manufacturing trade and craft. For the first time 
it became possible to have a reproduction of a drawing or a 
painting or a piece of sculpture that told enough about the surface 
of its original for anyone who studied it to tell something about 
the qualities of the original. By the third quarter of the century 
many experiments had been made towards getting the photograph 
translated into printer's ink without the intervention of either the 
draughtsman or the engraver. About I860, Bolton, an English 
wood-engraver, thought of having a photograph made on Ms 
block of wood so that he could engrave a piece of sculpture with- 
out having to get a draughtsman to draw it on the block for him. 
This eliminated one of the two chief obstacles to getting truthful 
reproductions into the pages of books. Bolton's method remained 
the principal way of making book illustrations until the end of 
the century. "In the seventies attempts were made to produce what 
we now call half-tones. This came to fruition in the eighties and 
nineties with the invention of the ruled cross-line half-tone screen, 
a device which made it possible to make a printing surface for a 
pictorial report in which neither the draughtsman nor the engraver 
had had a hand. Its great importance lay in the fact that the lines 
of the process as distinct from the lines of the visual report could 
be below the threshold of normal human vision. In the old hand- 

176 



RECAPITULATION 

made processes the lines of the process and the lines of the report 
were the same lines, and the process counted for more than the 
report in the character of the lines and the statements they made. 
Until after the two sets of lines and dots, those of the process and 
those of the report, had been differentiated and separated and the 
lines and dots of the process had been lost to ordinary vision, as 
they are in the photograph and the fine half-tone, there had been 
no chance of getting an accurate report. Man had at last achieved 
a way of making visual reports that had no interfering symbolic 
linear syntax of their own. In the whole history of human com- 
munication it is doubtful if any more extraordinary step had ever 
been taken than this. 

Within a very few years the new method had overrun the 
world. Not only did it revolutionize printing, but it gave such 
accuracy of reporting as had never previously been dreamed of, 
It was prerequisite to the existence of all our popular magazines 
and of our illustrated newspapers. It has brought about a very 
complete restudy and rewriting of the accepted history of the arts 
of the past, and more than that it has made all the exotic arts 
known of the ordinary man. It is interesting to notice how few of 
the books of connoisseurship published prior to 1880 are still 
either authoritative or on the shelves for ready reference. The 
very vocabulary of art criticism has been changed, as have the 
qualities for which men look in works of art. Whatever else 
'aesthetics* may now be, it is no longer a scholastic quasi-philo- 
sophizing whose task is to justify a tradition of forms based in equal 
measure on obstinate ignorance and sacro-sanct revelation. 

The flood of photographic images has brought about a realiza- 
tion of the difference between visual reporting and visual expres- 
sion. So long as the two things were not differentiated in the mind 
of the world, the world's greater practical and necessary interest 
in reporting had borne down artistic expression under the burden 
of a demand that it be verisimilar, and that a picture should be 
valued not so much for what it might be in itself as for the titular 
subject matter which might be reported in it. 
p.v.c, 17? o 



RECAPITULATION 

The photograph and photographic process having taken over 
the business of visual reporting from the hands of the pictorial 
reporters and the engravers, the artists suddenly found themselves 
absolved from any need of verisimilitude in their expression and 
design. A great many of them, knowing nothing whatever about 
either expression or design, were lost, for they too had been 
members of the public and had regarded verisimilitude as the 
purpose and the justification of their work. Except in the work of 
the very greatest artists, creation and verisimilitude are incom- 
patible, contradictory aims, and it is only at the hands of these 
greatest artists that creation has won out in the conflict between 
the two. With the photograph the magic dance of the creator's 
hand became for the first time visible in the reports of his work. 
Thus photographic reproduction of works of art and of what used 
to be called 'curios* has raised basic questions about the validity 
of many of the most hard-shelled and firmly entrenched doctrines 
about both art and beauty. It has changed Asiatic and African, 
Polynesian and Amerindian curiosities into works of art. It has 
revealed to the public for the first time something of the actual 
qualities of the Greek and later European arts of the past. It has 
brought about not only a reconsideration of the curious and 
ambiguous notion of the masterpiece which often was no more 
than the object or picture which particularly lent itself to the 
linear net of the engraving but it has caused many famous and 
adulated things to fall from grace and bestowed grace upon many 
unknown ones. It has made the western European world see that 
*beauty*, as it had known it, so far from being something universal 
and eternal was only an accidental and transient phase of the art 
of a limited Mediterranean area. Beauty is no longer the absolute 
that the pontiffs for so long proclaimed it to be. The photograph 
has made it obvious that what for four centuries the European 
world had acclaimed as purpose and beauty in art was no more 
than a peculiarly local prejudice about subject matter and mode 
of presentation. I think it is clear that this prejudice was to a great 
extent based on the methods of reproduction through which 

178 



RECAPITULATION 

artistic and factual report alike had reached the public. For 
generations that public had been circumscribed and made pro- 
vincial by the limitations imposed by the syntaxes of its graphic 
techniques. It is significant, for example, that many line engravings 
of nudes are 'good*, and that very few in any of the other tech- 
niques are. The nude was the particular fish for which the net of 
engraving had originally been devised. In the photograph the nude 
is more than apt to become either a 'naked' or a vulgarity. The 
nude has ceased to be the great preoccupation of the artists that 
it was before the pervasion of photography. 

F6r centuries the European world had been unable to dis- 
tinguish between factual reporting, with its necessary requirement 
of verisimilitude (of which perspective was an essential part), and 
that expression of values, of personality, and of attitude towards 
life, with which verisimilitude is always at war. As the elder 
Haldane once remarked, 'it is only through the constant negation 
of mere appearance that personality realizes itself*. 1 At last, thanks 
to the photograph, visual dream and expression were no longer 
required to conform to the informational reportorial demands of 
the ordinary businesses of life. 

In addition to all this, the exactly repeatable pictorial state- 
ment in its photographic forms has played an operational role of 
the greatest importance in the development of modern science and 
technology of every kind. It has become an essential to most of 
our industries and to all of our engineering. The modern know- 
ledge of light, like that of the atom, would have been impossible 
without the photograph. The complete revolution that has taken 
place in the basic assumptions of physics during the last fifty years 
could never have been accomplished without the data provided 
by the photographic emulsion. 

The total effect of all these things upon technical philosophy 
has been remarkable. Many of the old problems, the 'perennial 
problems of thought 9 , now seem in a way to be resolved by the 

1 Quoted from J. S, Haldane's Hfe, Mechanism cmd P-ermnalttj^ by 
permission of Mr. John Murray. 

179 



RECAPITULATION 

discovery that at least some of them are little more than accidents 
of unrecognized, unanalysed syntaxes of symbolization. 

The seriousness of the role of the exactly repeatable pictorial 
statement in all the long development since about 1450 has 
escaped attention very largely because that statement has been so 
familiar that it has never been subjected to adequate analysis. 
Having been taken for granted it has been overlooked. The photo- 
graph, as of today, is the final form of that exactly repeatable 
pictorial statement or report. Although it has very great limita- 
tions, it has no linear syntax of its own and thus has enabled men 
to discover that many things of the greatest interest and import- 
ance have been distorted., obscured, and even hidden, by verbal 
and pictorial, i.e. symbolic, syntaxes that were too habitual to be 
recognized. It is unfortunate that most of the world is still unaware 
of this fact. 

In a way, my whole argument about the role of the exactly 

repeatable pictorial statement and its syntaxes resolves itself into 
what, once stated, is the truism that at any given moment the 
accepted report of an event is of greater importance than the event, 
for what we think about and act upon is the symbolic report and 

not the concrete event itself. 



180 



INDEX 



Academic doctrines of representa- 
tion, 147, 151 ff. 

beauty, 153, 178 

Albert!, Leon Battista, 23 
Alice in Wonderland, 85 
Altdorfer, Albrecht, 96 
Amman, Jobst, 50 
Anaxagoras, 11 
Aquatint, 83, 87 
half-tone a species of, 127 
Archimedes, 6 
Aristotle, 5, 22, 63, 91 
Artistic expression v. factual com- 
munication, 136ff. 
Augustine, St., 6 

Baldung, Hans, 171 

Barbaro, Daniel, 117 

Baudelaire, 147 

Becquerel, Edmond, 125 

Berengar, 6 

Bewick, Thomas, 18, 86, 87, 94, 102, 

103, 104, 105 

Bewick's British Birds, 1797, 87, 103 
Blair's Grave^ 106 



Book Illustration, woodcut typical 

medium for early, 27 

engraving little used in early, 27 

extension of informational use, 

31 ff. 

first technological, 31 

first scientific, 33 

first mention of both draughts- 
man and woodcutter, 41 

effects of copying, 40 

second-hand information and 

rationalization of forms, 40, 
44 

herbals, first representation of 

generic forms, 44 

sixteenth-century demand for 

fine detail, 47 

woodcuts reach limits of fine 

texture on available paper in 
mid-sixteenth century, 47 

engraved and etched, expense 

of, 18, 49 

engraving substituted for 

woodcut in seventeenth cen- 
tury, 50, 68 



Blake, 85, 87, 94, 100, 101, 105, 106, in seventeenth and eighteenth 



125, 126 
Blake's Songs of Innocence, 1797, 85, 

87, 126 
Bolton, Thomas, 107, 108, 125, 

176 

Boner, Ulrich, 27 

Book Illustration, notion that it is 
subordinate to type, 29 

block books, 27 

. earliest, in book printed from 

type, 27 



centuries, second-hand state- 
ments, 50, 88 

wood-engraving brings relief 

prints back into, 19, 87 

wood-engraving typical medi- 
um for, in nineteenth cen- 
tury, 87 

Bosanquet, Bernard, 90 

Bosanquet's History of Aesthetic* 
1892, 90, 174 

Bosse, 16, 71, 74, 75, 76, 80, 81, 169 



181 



INDEX 



Bosweil, 99 

Botany, Greek, and illustration, 14 ff. 

Boucher, Francois, 82 

Boydell, 174 

Breydenbach's Travels, 1486, 36, 163 

Brueghel, Peter, the Elder, 67, 73 

Branfek's Herbal, 1542, 43 

Burgkmalr, the Elder, 171 

Cailot, 71, 72, 74, 75, 80, 81, 169 

Calvert, Edward, 105 

Camera, lucida, 84 

obscura, 84, 117 

Canaletto, 96, 100 

Caricature, La, 1830, 110 

Carpaccio, 38 

Cezanne, 110 

Charivari, Le, 1832, 110, 111 

Chasseriau, 110 

Cicero, 6 

Claude le Lorrain, 96 

Clennell, Luke, 103 

Cliche venre, 115 

Qymer, George, 95, 106 

Cochin, the Elder, 75 

Cock, HIeronymus, 67 

Cole, Timothy, 114 

Collecting, print, first satirized by La 

Brayere, 74 
Collotype, 125 
Colour prints, 37, 79, 83 
Communication and symbolism, 158 
Comte, 115 
Constable, John, 85 
Constantino IX, Emperor, 5 
Corot,110, 115 
Cotman, J, S., 100, 170 
Cranach, the Elder, 96, 114, 171 
Crane, Waiter, 89 
Crateuas, 14 
Culture of techniques, 7 



e, 119, 122, 134, 135, 176 
Daguerreotypes not photographs, 118 



Daguerreotypes, description of, 119 

process discovered in 1837, 119 

development of, 120 

competition with photography, 123 
Dalziel Bros., 97 

Daumier, 110, 111, 114, 128, 148, 
149, 150, 176 

Daumier exempt from pictorial con- 
ventions, 148 

Davy, Humphry, 117, 118, 121 

Decamps, 110 

Degas, 100, 110, 111, 148, 149, 150, 
151 

Degas and design, 149 

Degas exempt from pictorial con- 
ventions, 149 

Delacroix, 100, 109, 110, 176 

Denner, Balthazar, 100 

Denon, Vivant, 109, 141 

Desargues, 74 

Descriptions, photographic v. drawn, 
149 

Design v. reporting, 149, 151 

Diaz, Narcisse, 110 

Diderot, 17 

Dlonysius, 14 

Dore, Gustave, 110 

Draper, John W., 133 

Drawing, conventions in, 63 ff., 164 

Drevet, P. L, 84 

Dry Point, 79 f. 

Dilrer, Albrecht, 46, 61, 64, 65, 66, 
69, 77, 79, 96, 109, 114, 166, 171 

Diirer's Apocalypse, 1498, 85 

Eastman, George, 132 

Echope, 74 

Eckermann, 91 

Edelstein, 1461, 27, 151 

Education, self, and illustrated books, 
19, 175 

Eighteenth-century pictorial reason- 
ability^ 99 

Einstein, 92 



182 



INDEX 



Encyclopaedia Britannica, 12 
Encyclopaedia (of Diderot), 17 
Engelmann, G., 109 
Engraving and etching, first technical 
descriptions, 16, 74 

technique and size of edition, 72, 

76, 78, 85 

the 'swelled line' and longevity of 

plates, 73 

preliminary etching. See Etching 

burr on lines, 77 

'silvery impressions', 78 

primitive, lack of system in 

shading, 63 
the goldsmith's tradition, 64 

early, by trained draughtsmen, 64 
difference between German and 

Italian, 64 ff. 

the virtuoso engravers, 69 

fineness of linear structure, 165 

linear ^system, search for, 66, 69, 

73,75,78,81, 166, 170 ff. 

nineteenth-century revolt 

against, 101, 112 

Engraving, reproductive. See also 
Print Publishing and Wood- 
engraving 

special linear system for, first 

developed by Marc Antonio, 
66,166 

typical medium for book illus- 
tration in seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries, 49, 95 

Rubens School of, 72 ff. 

second-hand reports, 67, 89, 

171 

limitations of, as reports, 91, 

167 

effect on artistic opinion, 90, 

141 , 172 ff., 178 

effect on pictorial imagination, 

99 

old techniques of, driven out In 

nineteenth century, 95, 100 ff. 



Epistole e Evangetu, 1495, 85 
Etching, mixed with engraving, 74, 
79, 80, 82, 171 f. 

quickest way to make printing 

surfaces, 67 

and 'sketchiness', 81 

revival of, in nineteenth century, 

81, 100 

Everdingen, Alart van, 79 
Exotic art and origins of 'modern 
art', 154 

Fanti's Theory and Practice of 

Writing, 1514, 39 
Fashions in graphic media, 95 
Ficquet, 84 
Fifteenth century, accomplishment 

of, 21 ff. 

Fizeau, A. H. L., 120 
Flaxman, 107 
Fliegende Blatter, 102 
Fourdrinier, 18 
Foxe^s Martyrs ; 18 
Fragonard, J. H., 96 
Frege, Gottlob, 155 
Frisius, Simon, 75 
Fuchs's Herbal, 1542, 44 
Fullmaurer, Hemrich, 44 

Gaillard, Ferdinand, 100, 101 

Gardner, Percy, 12 

Garrick, 69 

Gart der Gesundheit,, 1485, 34 

Gaiiguin, Paul, 110, 149 

Gavami^S, 110 

Ged, William, 19 

Gericault, 109, 110 

Gfflot, 115 

Girtm, 84, 100, 117, 170 

Girtin's Views of 'Paris* 84 

Goethe, 91 

Goethe's Faust, 1828, 110, 176 

Goltzius, Hendrik, 73 



183 



INDEX 



Goya, 87, 96, 100, 109, 111, 124, 126, 

170, 175, 176 
Goya's C&prichos, 87 
Graphic techniques, fashionable 

hierarchy of, 113 
Greco, 124 

Crete fferbal, 1525, 4Q 
Guercino, 96 
Gutenberg, 27 
Gutenberg's Bible, 162 
Guys, Constantin, 98 

Haden, Seymour, 72 
Haldane, J. S., 179 
Half-tones, 126 ff. 

effect on printing techniques, 129 

ruled cross line screen, 128 

prints without linear syntax, 128, 

177 

Harvey, William, 105, 106 
Haydon, B. R., 106 
Henderson's History of Wines, 1824, 

104 

Herbals, 34 f., 40 ff. 
Herschell s Sir John, 122, 125 
Hill, D. O. f 123 
Hind, A. ML, 78, 79 
Hogarth, 86, 96, 100 
Holbein, Hans, the Younger, 96, 171 
Holbein's Dance of Death, 1538, 46, 

47 

Hollanda, Francesco da, 137 
Holroyd's Michael Angela Buonar- 

roti, 138 
Hopfer, 67, 84 
Hortus Sanitatis, 1491, 43 
Hunt, W. Holman, 107 

Illustrated London News, The, 98 

Imagination, pictorial, and repro- 
ductive engraving, 99 

'Informational pressure 5 on printing 
surfaces, 47, 165 

Ingres, 109, 110 



Ink balls, 107 

Ink rollers, 107 

Inventions, technique of making 

invented in nineteenth century, 

17 

Isabey, the Younger, 110 
Ives, F. E., 128 

Jackson and Chatto's Treatise on 
Wood-engraving, 1861, 97, 104, 
107, 108 

Jacquemart, Jules, 137 

Johnson, John, 106 

Johnson's Typographia, 1824, 106 

Johnson, Dr. Samuel, 99 

Jullienne, Jean de, 82 

Kingsley, Elbridge, 114 
Knight, Charles, 107 
Koenig, Friedrich, 19, 95 

Labour saving devices, unknown in 

ancient times, 6 
La Brayere's Characters, 74 
Lafreri, Antonio, 67 
Laocoon, 89 

series of prints after, 89 
U Artiste, 127 

'Latin Herbarius of 1484*, 34 

Legros, Alphonse, 78 

Lessing knew the Laocoon only 

through prints, 90, 174 
Levy, Max, 126 

'Linear syntax* in prints, 60, 61, 66, 
68, 145 

prints without, 128 

Linear textures, difference between, 

of woodcuts and engravings, 65 
Line blocks, 126 
Lithography, Invented by Senefelder, 

87 

training in process needed only by 

printer, 87 



184 



INDEX 



Lithography, the draughtsman's 
drawing printed from and not 
copied, 110 

maker can draw as he likes, 88, 

110 

longevity of printing surface, 88 

diffusion of, 108, 175 

greatest artistic development in 

France, 101, 109 
Lithographs, attempt to turn, into 

relief printing surfaces, 111 
Lodge, R. C, 39 
Louis XIV, 81 
Louis Philippe, 109 
'Lowering' of wood-blocks, 95 
Lucas, David, 85 

Lucas of Leyden, 66, 68, 77, 79, 96 
first mixes engraving and etch- 
ing, 79 
Lucretius, 6 
Luebke, Wilhelm, 39 
Lumiere, A., 125 

Malone, Edmond, 100 
Manet, 100, 110 

Mantegna, 46, 61, 65, 68, 77, 80, 96, 
111, 171 

engraved copies of his drawings, 

65 

Manuals Roret, 1825, 19 
Maratti, Carlo, 96 
Marc Antonio Raimondi, 65, 66, 68, 

84, 100, 166, 167, 168 
copies Diirer, Raphael, and 

ancient sculpture, 65 
develops special linear syntax 

for reproductive engraving, 

66 

Master E. S. Hie, 64 
Mayer, Albert, 44 
Mayr, Hans, 38 
Mechanical ability of ancient peoples, 

4ff. 

of Dark and Middle Ages, 4 ff. 



Megenburg's Book of Nature, 1475, 

33 

Meissonier, J, L., 137 
Mellan, Claude, 81 

and parallel lines in engraving, 

81 

Menzel, Adolf, 137 
Metal cuts, 46 
Metrodorus, 14 
Mezzotint, 84 
Michael Angelo, 137, 173 
Microcosm of London^ 1808, 85 
Microphotography, 133 
Millais, 107 
Millet, J. R, 110, 115 
'Modern Art* , 153 flf. 
Monet, Claude, 147 
Montpensier, Due de, 109 
Morghen, Raphael, 150 
Morris, William, 30, 102 

and typographic snobbery, 

102 

Motion, rendering of, by artists, 152 
Moxon, Joseph, 16, 17 
Moxon's Mechanlck Exercises ', 16 
Murray, A. S., 39 
Muybridge, Eadweard, 132 

Nanteuii, Robert, 81 

, his use of assistants on plates, 

82 

, Ms linear system, 81 

Napoleon 1, 140 

'Net of rationality', 70 

New York Times, The, 129 

Nicholas of Cusa, 23 

Niepce,J, K, 118, 119 

NoMekens, 141 

Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493, 29, 

38 



Once a Week, 107 
Overlays, 95 



185 



INDEX 



Paintings made to be engraved, 174 
Paper, China, and early wood- 
engraving, 103 IF. 

machine made, 18 
Papffion, J. M., 16 
Papiilon's Traitt, 1766, 16 
Pannigiano, 96 

Pascal, Biaise, 173 

Pater, Walter, 57 

Pattern designs, early printed, 27 

Pelerin's Perspective, 1504, 39 

Penny Cyclopaedia, 19 

Penny Magazine, 107 

Perrot and Cfaipiez, 39 

Perspective, 23, 138 

first book on, 39 
Peruzzi, 65 
Pfister, Ulrich, 27 
Philipon, 110 

Photography and photographic pro- 
cess, 115ff. 

definition of, 118 

Wedgwood gets print by action of 

light in 1802, 88 

its pre-history, 116 ff. 

discovered by Talbot in 1835, 121 

'hypo* discovered by HerscheM, 122 

Talbot invents negative and posi- 

tive, 121 

discovers latent image, 122 

invents line block, 126 

invents half-tone screen, 127 

development of, 123 ff. 
no linear syntax in, 128 
colour, 124 

and movement, 131 

fast, 131 

the moving picture, 132 

astronomical, 133 
infra-red, 133 

X-rays, 134 

pervasion of, 135 

takes over pictorial reporting, 136, 

177 



Photography and perspective, 138 

effect on popular vision, 94, 138 

and scientific reporting, 92, 179 

accepted as norm of pictorial 

truthfulness, 94 

and connoisseurship, 134, 144 

of works of art, 139, 176 

of works of art and effect on public 

taste, 144 ff. 

causes history of art to be re- 

written, 146, 177 

replaces drawings on wood-blocks, 

107 

Photographic process, Niepce in 1826 
reproduces an old print, 118 

Fizeau in 1842 makes photo- 
gravures, 120 

collotypes, 125 

line blocks, 126 

half-tones, 126 ff. 

drives out older techniques of 

reproduction, 130, 177 

Photogravures, 120 

Physionotrace, 84 

Piranesi, G. B., 96, 100 

Pissarro, Camille, 3 10 

Plato, 6, 11,63 

Pliny the Elder, 13 ff, 33, 62, 88 

Pliny's Natural History, 13 ff. 

Pliny the Younger, 2, 11, 163 

Plotinus, 6 

Pollaiuolo, Antonio, 96, 171 

Pofyautographic Album, 1803, 108, 
109 

Ponton, Mungo, 125 

Printing presses, earliest, 26 

improvements in, in early 

nineteenth century, 95 
weakness of until nineteenth 

century, 106 

power, 19, 95, 107 

Prints, defined as exactly repeatable 
pictorial statements, 2 

first made in Renaissance, 2, 162 



186 



INDEX 

Prints, situation before their inven- Psellos, 5 



tion, 4 ff. 

earliest, 24 

pervasion of, 21, 24 

subject matters of earliest, 27 

first informational, 28, 31 

earliest, of identifiable objects, 31 

informational, role in modern 

civilization, 3, 16 

artistic aspects of secondary 

importance, 3 

in imitation of drawing techniques, 

64, 83, 170 

profusion of in nineteenth century, 

93 

original, few remembered except 

those by professional 
painters, 73 

few made in eighteenth century, 

88/96 

fashion for in nineteenth cen- 
tury, 114 

Print publishing, becomes a special- 
ized business, 66, 168 

discovery that visitors to Rome 

wanted views, etc., 67 

based on reproductive prints, 

68 

earliest manufacture of prints, 

28 

subdivision of labour in manu- 
facture, 67, 76, 97 ff., 171 

standardization of linear 

systems in manufacture, 68, 
75, 99, 167 

differentiation between original 

and reproductive work in 
seventeenth century, 71 ff. 

size of editions and its effect on 

techniques, 72 ff., 169 

'Processes', proliferation of, in nine- 
teenth century, 93 

fashionable disdain for, 115 

Pradhon, 110 



"Pseudo-Apuleius\ c. 1483, 34, 41 
Puck&s Club, 1817, 104 
Puvis de Chavannes, 110 



Quevedo's Pablo de Segovle, 1881, 
126 



Raffet, 110 
Raphael, 65, 166, 173 

engraved copies after, 65 
Rationalization and reasonability, 

40,99 

Redon,Odilon,110 
Relief etchings, Blake's Songs of 

Innocence, 87 

Rembrandt, 71, 78, 79, 80, 81, 96, 
100, 101, 111 

uses many techniques on same 

plate, 79 f. 

fast wear of his plates, 79 

had little influence until nine- 

teenth century, 80 
Reni, Guido, 96 
Renoir, 110 

Rewich, Erhard, of Utrecht, 38, 163 
Robert, Hubert, 83 
Robert, Louis, 18 
Roentgen, W. K., 134 
Rogers's Pleasures of Memory, 1810, 

103, 105 

Romanes III, Emperor, 5 
Rossetti, D. G., 96, 107 
Roulette, 82 

Rousseau, Theodore, 115 
Rowlandson, 100 
Rubens, 71, 72, 73, 79, 80, 81, 86, 96, 

169, 173 
Rubens-Callot-Bosse tradition and 

its effect on taste, 80 
Ruskin, 57, 142 
Russell, Bertrand, 155 
Ruysdael, Jacob, 96 



187 



INDEX 



Sacrobosco's Sphaera Mundi, 1485, 

37 

Salntsbury, George, 66 
Savage's Hints on Decorative Print- 
ing, 1822, 104 
Schatzbehalter, 1491, 29 
Schongauer, 64, 96, 167 
Schreiber, W. L., 28 
Schulze, Johann Heinrich, 117 
Science, early, handicapped by lack 

of prints, 14, 16 
modern, dependent on exactly 

repeatable pictorial statements, 
3, 161, 179 
Sculpture, engravings after 'Roman 

copies* of, 65, 167 
Seebeck, T. J., 124 
Seghers, Hercules, 71, 79 
Senefelder, 87, 88, 94, 108, 175 
Shakespeare, 69 

Slavery and ancient technology, 6, 9 
Smith, John Thomas, 141 
Soft ground etching, 83 
Spagnoletto (Ribera), 96 
Speckle, Hans Rudolph, 44 
Speculum, 8 
Stanhope, Lord, 95 
Steel facing, 73 
Stereotyping, 19 
Stimmer, Tobks, 50 
Stipple engraving, 83 
Stirling's Annals of the Artists of 

Spain, 1847, 124 
Stothard, Thomas, 103, 105, 109 
Strang, WMam, 78 
Styles, new, carried by reproductive 

prints, 69 

Subject matter in painting, 151 
Sulphur tint, 79 
Surfaces, pictorial reproduction of, 

130, 143 f., 178 
Symbolism and syntax, 51 ffi, 
Symbols, necessary for commimlca- - 

tion, 158 

188 



Symbols, association of sense aware- 
nesses, 53 

efficiency depends on repeat- 

ability, 12 f., 62, 159 

words, representative members of 

classes, 56, 159 f, 

definitions belong to the 

classes, 56, 159 

limits of verbal definition of, 

15, 159 

pictorial definition of, 15, 159 

inadequacy of, for description, 

51 if., 160 ff. 

unable to describe the unique, 

52 

conventional meanings of, 53 ff. 

provide intellectual knowledge 

but not sensuous acquaint- 
ance, 53 

analysis of verbal communica- 
tion, 54 

context and syntax, 56 

time order of use and appre- 
hension, 56 

prolixity of verbal description, 

57 

why tool makers want draw- 
ings, 57 

classification of natural forms, 

58 

pictorial, directly apprehended by 
vision, 59 

made by individuals, 60 

many not representatives of 

classes, 59 

none exactly repeatable until 

invention of prints, 2, 12 ff., 
159 ff. 

linear structures and conven- 
tions in, 60 

first, without linear structures, 

128 

seen first as wholes, 61 

no dictionaries for, 61 



INDEX 



Symbols, verbal description requires 
preliminary time order analysis, 
63 

pictorial description not depen- 
dent on time order analysis, 63 

Talbot, W. H. Fox, 121, 122, 124, 
126, 127, 131, 134, 135, 175, 176 

Talbot's The Pencil of Nature , 1844, 
124 

Tardieu, N. H., 82 

Taste in prints, recent changes in, 
112 ff. 

Technology, growth of in Dark and 
Middle Ages, 5 ff. 

Technological description, lateness 
of, 16, 17 

Tennyson's Poems, 1857^ 97, 107 

Theodoric, 8 

Thornton, R. J., 106 

Thornton's Vergil, 1821, 106 

Thorwaldsen, 142 

Thurston's Religious Emblems,, 1809, 
103 

Tiepolo, G. B., 96 

Times, The (London), 19, 129 

Tints in engravings, 84 

Titian, 96, 111, 173 

Torquemada's Meditations, 1467, 
31, 162 

Toulouse-Lautrec, 110, 111, 149, 150 

exempt from pictorial conven- 
tions, 150 

Truth in pictorial representation of 
shapes and colours, 152 

Turner, J. M. W., 84, 100, 114, 170 

Turner's Liber Studiorum 9 84, 114 

Types and type printing, first tech- 
nological description of, 16 

Valturius's Art of War, 1472, 31, 163 
Van Dyck, Anthony, 78, 96, 169 
van Gogh, 149 
Velasquez, 124 



Verbal statements, only things the 
ancients could exactly repeat, 
62 

effect of this on thought, 63 

Verisimilitude in art, 155, 177 ff. 

Victoria, Queen, 101 

Vierge, Daniel, 126 

Virtuosity in engraving technique v. 
draughtsmanship, 111, 169 

Vitruvius, 6 

Walpole, Horace, 140, 141 
Watteau, 82, 83, 96 

prints after his chalk drawings, 

83 

character of prints after, 82 

first engraved corpus of one 

artist's work, 82 
Wedgwood, Thomas, 88, 117, 118, 

121, 175 

Weiditz, Hans, 43 
West, Benjamin, 109 
Whistler, J, M., 100 
White, Lynn, 8 
WMtehead, A. N., 17, 155 
Winckelmann, 141, 145 
Winckelmann's History of Ancient 

Art, 1764, 39, 174 
Woodcuts, see also Book Illustration 

early hand coloured, 29 

'facsimile cuts*, could be first hand 

statements, 46, 164, 171 

generally cut by professional 

woodcutters, 46 

competition with engravings, 47, 

49, 86, 166 

increasing fineness of texture in 

sixteenth century, 47, 165 

fine textured, difficulty in printing, 

47 

few artistic, after sixteenth cen- 

tury, 50, 86 

end of their xeign in book illus- 

tration, meaning of, 50 



189 



INDEX 



Woodcutting, first technical descrip- 
tion of, 16 

Wood-engraving, see also Print Pub- 
lishing 

Bewick and, IS, 86 

origin unknown, 86 

longevity of blocks, 86 

tints in, 86, 103 

white line, 86, 105 ff. 

of fine lines, 86 

emulation of copper plate linear 

structure, 104 

typical nineteenth-century method 

of book illustration, 87 

reqeires smooth paper, 103 

effect on techniques of printing, 

102, 106 

substitution of photography for 

drawings on blocks, 107, 125, 
176 



Works of art, nineteenth-century 
collection of ancient and 
-exotic, 140 ff. 

rationalization of, In engraved 

reproductions, 143 

"master-pieces', objects that 

lent themselves to repro- 
ductive engraving, 178 

known by their visible sur- 
faces, 143 

engraved reproductions of, 

gave no information about 
their surfaces, 143 

surfaces of, first reported by 

photography and photo- 
graphic process, 144 

Young's Night Thoughts, 106 
Zeno, ofEIea, 152 



190 




Z 



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